RESEARCH – June 2012

Use of prescription medicines by the population of Estonia as related to self-perceived health and incidence of chronic diseases in 1996 and 2006


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Objectives. To asses whether and to what extent the use of prescription medicines has changed among the population of Estonia in 1996 and 2006 and how the use of medicines is related to self-perceived health and incidence of chronic diseases.

Materials and methods. Data from two representative population health surveys in Estonia were employed. There were 4711 respondents in the survey of 1996 and 6436 respondents in the survey of 2006 year. In this study the data on the frequency and causes of the use of medicines, presence of chronic diseases and self-perceived health were used to describe the factors influencing the use of prescription medicines.

Results. During one decade, from 1996 to 2006, the number of people using prescription medicines had significantly increased. In 2006 only one-fifth of the survey participants in the age group over 65 years did not use prescription medicines. Concominant use of multiple prescription medicines was more common than it had been ten years earlier – the number of users two or more prescription medicines had doubled and at least three medicines were used simultaneously by one-quarter of those using prescription medicines. The reasons for using medicines had remained the same, but the number of users had increased in all disease groups, despite the fact that the incidence of chronic diseases had not changed considerably.

Conclusion. Among the population of Estonia there were significantly more people who used medicines prescribed by the physician in 2006 than in 1996, and also several medicines were prescribed more frequently. Despite the small increase in the incidence of chronic diseases, the number of people in Estonia with chronic diseases who were permanently using prescription medicines as well as polypharmacotherapy had increased considerably.