The number of doctors' prescription issued have risen by more than half in ten years, with ingredient costs up by 50% to £8.37 billion, figures show.
Almost twice as many prescriptions were received by people aged 60 and over, more than any other age group.
In 2007, each person aged 60 and over received 42.4 prescription items on average, compared with 22.3 each in 1997. Those aged 16 to 59 received 9.5 items each on average, and children under 16 received 3.9.
The data from the NHS Information Centre shows that the number of prescriptions written for six health specialities, including cardiovascular, respiratory and central nervous systems, rose 6.7% between 2006 and 2007.
In 2006, 561 million prescriptions were written for these areas, rising to 599 million in 2007. Overall, there was a 5.9% rise in prescriptions, to 796 million items in 2007. This represents a 59.2% rise on figures for 1997.
The therapeutic area with the largest number of items dispensed, which also had the greatest cost, was the cardiovascular system.