Prescription drug use in the United States is far from the level depicted in a viral video

The claim: Americans make up 5% of the world’s population, but consume 87% of the world’s prescription drugs

A Facebook video from May 24 shows a woman talking about Americans’ prescription drug use.

“Did you know that America is 5% of the world’s population and takes 87% of all prescription drugs in the world?” said the woman.

The video garnered over 1,000 shares in less than two weeks. The video was originally shared on TikTok, where it received over 40,000 likes within the same time frame.

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Our opinion: False

While the United States accounts for about 4% of the world’s population, experts say it only consumes about 8% of the world’s prescription drugs, not 87%.

U.S. prescription drug use is well below the 87% statistic

About 66% of American adults use prescription drugs, according to the Health Policy Institute. However, global drug use in the country is far from what is depicted in the Facebook video.

Michael Kleinrock, senior research director at the IQVIA Institute of Human Data Science, told USA TODAY that the claim in the video was inaccurate.

“The 87% statement is a far cry from the evidence-based research we are conducting, which would put the US share of prescription drug use at around 8%,” Kleinrock said in an email.

He said IQVIA defines prescription drugs as all prescription drugs used in both hospital and clinic settings. It calculates volume using the World Health Organization’s “defined daily doses” metric, or the assumed average dose of a drug per day.

IQVIA’s 2023 Global Drug Utilization Report shows that approximately 3.2 trillion defined daily doses of prescription drugs were consumed worldwide in 2022. Meanwhile, IQVIA’s US Drug Utilization Report the institute in 2023 shows that the United States consumed about 243 billion defined daily doses in the same year, or about 8% of the global volume.

Kleinrock said he doesn’t know the source of the 87% stat, as IQVIA is the only global source on the subject.

β€œAll other official medicine statistics – WHO, OECD, World Bank, WTO – are measures of medicine sales, not volumes,” Kleinrock said.

Spencer Wilson, a representative for the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, told USA TODAY that IQVIA is the most well-known source on global drug use.

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Stephen Kogut, a professor at the University of Rhode Island’s College of Pharmacy, and Andrew Mulcahy, senior policy researcher at the RAND Corporation, a nonpartisan think tank, also told USA TODAY the claim was false.

The two said the United States leads the world in national pharmaceutical spending, but the country’s prescription drug use is a far cry from 87%.

Mulcahy referenced a 2021 peer-reviewed report published by RAND that studied 32 high-income OECD countries. The report, which omitted countries like China and Brazil, found that the United States uses about 25% of prescription drug volume among the countries surveyed.

A 2017 study by the Commonwealth Fund compared prescription drug use in the United States to nine other high-income countries, such as Australia and Canada. The study found that while Americans generally spend more on drugs, they consume them at similar levels to other countries surveyed.

Although there is no evidence that the United States consumes 87% of the world’s prescription drugs, it consumes about 80% of the world’s opioid supply, according to CNBC.

With a population of around 335 million, the United States also accounts for around 4.2% of the world’s population of over 8 billion, which is similar to the claim in the video.

The woman in the video is correct that the US and New Zealand are the only countries that allow pharmaceutical ads, but she’s slightly off the mark in her claims about how the country’s life expectancy ranks compared to that of other countries.

The CIA ranked the life expectancies of 227 countries and found the United States ranked 48th, not 68th, while data from the United Nations Population Division placed the United States 43rd out of 193.

USA TODAY contacted the Facebook user who shared the post for comment, but did not immediately receive a response. The TikTok user could not be contacted.

The claim has also been debunked by PolitiFact and Check Your Fact.

Our fact-checking sources:

  • Michael Kleinrock, June 7, email exchange with USA TODAY

  • IQVIA Institute for Human Data Science, March 24, Global Drug Use 2023

  • IQVIA Institute for Human Data Science, May 19, Drug Use in the United States 2023

  • World Health Organization, accessed May 8, Defined Daily Dose (DDD)

  • Spencer Wilson, June 6, email exchange with USA TODAY

  • Stephen Kogut, June 7, email exchange with USA TODAY

  • Andrew Mulcahy, June 7, email exchange with USA TODAY

  • RAND Corporation, January 22, 2021, International Prescription Drug Price Comparisons

  • Commonwealth Fund, 5 October 2017, Paying for Prescription Drugs Around the World: Why is the US an Outlier?

  • CNBC, April 27, 2016 Americans consume the vast majority of opioids in the world

  • Health Policy Institute, Accessed June 6, Prescription Drugs

  • US Census Bureau, accessed June 8, US and World Population Clock

  • United Nations Population Fund, accessed 8 June, World Population Dashboard

  • CIA, accessed June 12, Life expectancy at birth

  • Worldometer, accessed June 12, World Population Life Expectancy

  • Harvard Health Publishing, February 14, 2017, Don’t be sold by drug advertising

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Experts Say US Doesn’t Use 87% of Global Prescriptions | Fact check

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