(NaturalNews) Prescription rates in the United Kingdom have been rising rapidly, showing an increasing reliance on pharmaceuticals to treat everything from allergies to obesity, according to a report released by the National Health Service (NHS) Information Center.
The NHS data show that 842.5 million prescriptions were dispensed in the country in 2008, which comes out to 16.4 prescription items per person. This marks a significant (5.8 percent) increase over 2007. When compared with figures from a decade earlier, the rise is even more astonishing: 64.1 percent more prescriptions were filled in 2008 than in 1998.
These figures cannot be explained by rising population. In 2007, 15.6 prescriptions were dispensed per person; in 1998, only 10.5 were.
The largest increases came among allergy-related drugs, including antihistamines and drugs for allergic emergencies or hyposensitization, which increased by 5.1 percent between 2007 and 2008. Prescriptions for obesity drugs increased by 3.7 percent.
Health professionals note that many of the prescriptions being filled are set to automatically renew, so that many patients may be taking drugs long after they are actually needed. A large number are also coming from people over the age of 65, nearly 50 percent of whom are taking five or more drugs at one time.
Mixing medications in this way can lead to a serious risk of dangerous drug interactions.
"Inevitably, people do get put on more drugs when they get older because they suffer from more chronic conditions," said Jonathan Silcock of the University of Leeds. This is often the right thing to do, but the problem is we don't necessarily know how these drugs are going to work in combination. GPs are excellent at prescribing, but they are not always so good at knowing when to stop, and they may not always have the time to conduct a thorough review. "
More than 60 percent of patients surveyed report that they believe they are suffering a drug side effect, but many have not reported it to their doctors.