Today’s Headlines: Prescriptions, Antidepressants and Alcoholism Treatment

50% of Americans take prescription drugs: An annual report from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reveals that approximately half of all Americans take one or more prescription drugs and one in ten people take over four. The report also revealed that “pharmaceutical companies aren’t relying on doctors to sell their pills. Spending on direct-to-consumer advertising for all drugs more than tripled between 1996 and 2005 to $4.2 billion, according to the report.” However, the report did contain one particularly promising piece of news: “Doctors are prescribing fewer useless antibiotics. Antibiotics prescribed during medical visits for cold symptoms declined 39% between 1995-96 and 2009-10.” (CNN)

Anti-depressants ‘could slow onset of Alzheimer’s disease’: The antidepressant medication citalopram may help slow the onset of Alzheimer’s disease according to a small new study. “Research into 23 people, and transgenic mice, found citalopram hampered a protein which helps to build destructive plaques in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients.” After healthy people received one dose of citalopram, the levels of the protein, called amyloid beta, in their cerebrospinal fluid dropped by 38%. Researchers are hopeful that this drug could have a potential use for Alzheimer’s prevention, though more, larger studies would be needed first. (BBC)

Drugs to aid alcoholics see little use, study finds: “Two medications could help tens of thousands of alcoholics quit drinking, yet the drugs are rarely prescribed to patients,” according to a new study. Naltrexone and acamprosate work to reduce alcohol cravings by altering how the brain responds to alcohol. They have been FDA approved for treating alcoholism for more than a decade. However, less than a third of people with alcohol problems receive treatment, and fewer than 10% are given medication to help. The new study looked at data from about 23,000 people in 122 trials and concluded that wider use of these two drugs could help many people maintain abstinence from alcohol. (The New York Times)