US Pharm. 2009;34(5):10. 

According to the National Center for Health Statistics, the share of total personal health care expenditures attributed to hospital care declined (from 40% in 1980 to 31% in 2005) and prescription drug expenditures doubled (from 5% to 10%). These changes reflect the shift in health care from inpatient settings to ambulatory care settings and the effect of the growing use of prescription drugs on health care services and spending.

Types of Drugs Prescribed: The use of analgesics and other medications is the most commonly used method of relieving chronic pain. From 1995 to 2005, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) were the type of drug most frequently prescribed to both males and females for pain relief (28.8 drugs per 100 patients), followed by nonnarcotic analgesics (28.7 drugs); narcotics were prescribed least often (19.7 drugs). Between the time periods 1995 to 1996 and 2004 to 2005, the prescribing frequency of NSAIDs for pain relief increased by 45% (from 19.9 drugs to 28.8 drugs per 100 patients) for males and females in all age brackets. The increase in the prescribing of NSAIDs between these time periods was greater among males (53%) than among females (40%). 

Children: The financial burden of chronic pain in the pediatric population may be significant in terms of health care utilization as well as other indirect costs. In addition, the physical and psychological sequelae associated with chronic pain may affect overall health and predispose children to the development of pain in adulthood. From 1995 to 1996, the number of NSAIDs prescribed for children up to the age of 18 was lower for boys (10.4 drugs per 100 patients) than for girls; from 2004 to 2005, however, the number was higher for boys (15.7 drugs) than for girls. The number of nonnarcotic drugs prescribed outnumbered NSAID prescriptions for both boys and girls from 1995 through 2005. The number of narcotic analgesics prescribed for children was not significant. 

Adults: Among adults aged 18 to 44, NSAIDs were the most frequently prescribed type of drug for pain relief, with a 15% increase between the periods 1995 to 1996 and 2004 to 2005. Prescribing of nonnarcotic analgesics for the symptomatic relief of pain doubled during this time frame, with a 110% increase (to 27.3 drugs per 100 patients) for men and a 91% increase (to 30 drugs) for women. Nearly 33% of all medications prescribed were for patients over the age of 65. 

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