More Americans than ever are taking prescription drugs, a new study finds.  But most of the top 10 drugs are for preventable conditions.

59% of adults used prescription drugs in 2011-2012, up from 51% in 1999-2000.

For the study, published Nov. 3rd in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), the researchers used data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey to determine trends in prescription drug use among nearly 38,000 adults aged 20 and older between 1999-2000 and 2011-2012. Participants were asked about their prescription drug use in the previous 30 days.

By 2011-2012, the researchers found that:

  • 27% of adults were taking high blood pressure drugs, up from 20% a decade earlier.
  • Statin use (drugs that lower cholesterol) more than doubled — from 7% to 17%. The overall prescription drug leader was simvastatin (Zocor), taken by nearly 8% of adults. Just 2% took it in 1999-2000.
  • Use of antidepressants nearly doubled, increasing from 7% to 13%.

Many of the 10 most commonly used drugs in 2010-2011 treat high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol, which are related to diet, exercise and weight, the study authors said. Another drug, omeprazole, is used to treat acid reflux, which can be exacerbated by obesity.

After Zocor, the top 10 included lisinopril (Prinivil), levothyroxine (Levothroid), metoprolol (Lopressor), metformin (Fortamet), hydrochlorothiazide (Aquazide H), omeprazole (Prilosec), amlodipine (Norvasc), atorvastatin (Lipitor), and albuterol (Ventolin, Proventil).

Dr. David Katz, director of the Yale University Prevention Research Center, said a healthy lifestyle can prevent most of the chronic diseases these drugs treat, he said.

"Consider the irony. Here in the U.S., we aggressively peddle foods that propagate illness, and drugs to treat the illness that ensues. Big Food and Big Pharma are the winners — we and our families, the losers," he said.

Pass me that cheesecake, would you?  Oh, and my Lipitor.  Thanks.