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If there's any truth to the saying “better living through medication,� then our lives are improving every day. Last year, Americans spent an estimated $20 billion on over-the-counter remedies, up from $10 billion in 1990, 1 and a whopping $161 billion on prescription drugs, up from just$40 billion a decade ago. 2 By 2010, thanks in part to the country's aging population, Americans are expected to spend $360 billion filling prescriptions. (Sales projections are not available for over-the-counter medicines.) Without a doubt, a greater percentage of the nation's take-home pay is going toward stocking the family medicine cabinet. According to the Consumer Expenditure Survey, the average American household budget for drugs, including both over-the-counter and prescription meds, rose to $449 a year in 2001, up 78 percent from $252 in 1991. During the same period, wages and salaries increased by just 50 percent. Interestingly, consumers today spend more each year on drugs than on shoes, furniture and reading material. Let's hope they take the time to read the labels.

  1. Consumer Healthcare Products Association
  2. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
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