STAT News (2019) - Overprescribed: High cost isn't America's only drug problem
The pharmaceutical industry has followed a brilliant two-pronged strategy to maximize its profits: raise prices and increase consumption of medications.
Most of the attention has focused on just one side of the equation — prices. With politicians and advocates on both sides of the aisle vowing to lower drug prices, few people are talking about Americans being overprescribed medications, which not only adds to the cost of drugs but also harms millions of Americans each year.
This implies to me that there may not be much of an effort to deal with the overprescription problem in the United States as there is much more focus on drug prices in general. Furthermore, one way to read this is that if drug prices are reduced, pharmaceutical companies may be driven to further increase prescription rates in order to retain current levels of profits.
Between 2000 and 2012, the proportion of adults in the U.S. who were taking five or more medications nearly doubled, from 8.2 percent to 15 percent.
Older Americans are particularly vulnerable to medication overload. Today, 42 percent of adults over the age of 65 take five or more medications — a red flag for harm. The rapid increase in the number of medications older people are taking has led to a sharp rise in serious side effects, known clinically as adverse drug events.
There is undoubtedly a rise in prescription rates in Americans, and this appears to be a problem that should be addressed. In regards to your question, this would mean that overprescription is an issue that needs dealing with, so the lack of nationwide policy is not because rising prescription rates are acceptable.
Lown Institute - Medication Overload: How the drive to prescribe is harming older Americans
A broad array of forces is at work, with three overarching aspects of our health care system contributing to the epidemic:
Culture of Prescribing – Advertisements linking prescription medications to happiness and health, the increased medicalization of normal human aging, the hurried pace of medical care, and the desire of both health care professionals and patients to “do something” have fostered a shared expectation that there is a “pill for every ill.”
Information & Knowledge Gaps – Clinicians and patients lack critical information and skills they need to appraise the evidence and make informed decisions regarding medications.
Fragmentation of Care – There is a pervasive lack of communication between a patient’s various providers. Often, more prescriptions are written to treat what appears to be a new condition, when in reality prescribers are treating a side effect of another drug. This “prescribing cascade” can lead to a cycle of debilitation and even death.
Policies attempting to deal with the overprescription issue would probably focus on one or more of the three broad areas given in the prior quotation. Looking through ProPublica's list of Bills About Health from the 116th Congress, I don't see anything that really addresses overprescription rates. I had initially picked out a few that could possibly help, but the connections to overprescription rates was very tenuous. They were mostly focused on either increasing the supply of medical professionals or in curbing the effects of the opioid epidemic caused by overprescription of opioid medications. Ultimately, I realized that they were irrelevant to this discussion because they are not being proposed as part of an overall strategy to deal with the rising prescription rates in this country.
Furthermore, in trying to focus on bills relating to pharmaceutical companies, the focus of any relevant bills seems to be on the issue of drug prices rather than on their push to increase prescription rates. Or if the bill did focus on deceptive marketing techniques to increase prescription rates, it was in the context of specifically opioid prescriptions rather than overall prescriptions.
When narrowing down to bills relating to prescriptions, most of the bills are still focused either in controlling the prices of prescription medications or dealing with overprescription of opioids.
As best as I can tell, the STAT News article that I cited above seems correct: "few people are talking about Americans being overprescribed medications[.]" So, as difficult as it is to provide a negative answer, I would say that, as best as I can tell, the US does not have a national strategy to reduce prescription drug consumption.