Much of the American South is ailing, with West Virginia the worst off--at least, if the rate of prescription drug use is any indication. The state filled 17.7 prescriptions per capita compared to a national average of 11.5, according to Verispan, a health care information company.
Alabama, South Carolina, Tennessee, Arkansas, Louisiana, Kentucky and Missouri also have prescription drug-use rates well above the national average.
Dr. Jane Barlow, vice president of medical strategy and clinical quality for Medco Health Solutions, one of the nation's largest pharmacy benefit manager, says there's a reason these states use more medication: Their rates of heart disease, obesity and diabetes are higher than the national average, particularly in West Virginia.
Though physical inactivity is clearly linked to prescription drug trends, poor mental health has also influenced usage patterns: Antidepressants were the third most-popular type of drug dispensed in 2008, with $9.5 billion in sales.
The percentage of non-elderly adults who used antidepressants increased from 6% to 10% between 1996 and 2005, according to Dr. Mark Oflson, a professor of clinical psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center who recently analyzed these trends and published the findings in the Journal of the American Medical Association.