The 10 Most Prescribed Drugs

Published on: 

Prescription drugs are a large part of everyday life for many Americans. Even if you are not taking a prescribed medication, you see commercials on television and ads in magazines encouraging the use of the latest developments in pharmaceuticals.

Prescription drugs are a large part of everyday life for many Americans. Even if you are not taking a prescribed medication, you see commercials on television and ads in magazines encouraging the use of the latest developments in pharmaceuticals.

The research firm IMS Health looked at the top 10 drugs prescribed in the US monthly between July 2013 and June 2014. Among the drugs on the list are name brands that are easily recognized, as well as some that have been on the market for decades.

Many Americans face at least one of the health issues treated by these drugs, if not more. Drug companies and their sales reps know this, and just about every large pharmaceutical company is on the list, representing various therapeutic categories. Many of these drugs were blockbuster sellers and continue to be stars in the companies’ portfolios.

How many of these drugs do you prescribe monthly? Are these the drugs that your patients ask for by name? Tell us in the comments.

10. Lyrica — 9.6 million

Pfizer’s blockbuster drug Lyrica has been approved for treating several disorders, including epilepsy, anxiety, and fibromyalgia. The drug’s popularity has also made it the subject of multiple patent challenges from would-be generic competitors. Not surprisingly, Pfizer has defended its patents vigorously. The firm recently made headlines when it sent a letter to physicians in the UK warning them that prescribing generic pregabalin to treat certain conditions might constitute patent infringement.

9. Vyvanse — 10 million

ADHD is often diagnosed in childhood and symptoms can continue well into adulthood, so it’s not surprising that a drug for the condition is prescribed often. Vyvanse is made by Shire, and it has also been approved to treat adult binge eating disorders. The company holds the patent on the drug until 2023, and has been negotiating with the FDA for extra months of exclusivity on the patent for further testing on kids younger than 6 years old.

8. Cymbalta — 10 million

Sales of Eli Lilly’s anti-depression drug have dropped 73% since a generic came on the market in December 2013, but that still wasn’t enough of a drop to leave it off the most-prescribed list. Cymbalta is one of several stars in the Lilly neuroscience therapy group — predecessors Prozac and Zyprexa set the stage, and new ADHD and Alzheimer’s-diagnostic drugs will be patent-protected for a while.

7. Lantus Solostar — 10.1 million

With the recent news that states that expanded Medicaid saw a 23% jump in Type II diabetes diagnoses among Medicaid recipients, it’s not surprising that a diabetes therapy is on the list of most prescribed drugs. This insulin analog drug is administered through an injection pen, and is available in more than 120 countries. It’s part of Sanofi’s larger diabetes portfolio.


6. Diovan — 11.4 million

This Novartis drug is a 2-fold attack on high blood pressure — the pill combines a diuretic with an angiotensin receptor blocker. Nearly one in three Americans have hypertension, many living with the blood vessel-destroying condition and not knowing it. Like many other drugs on this list, though, Diovan’s patent expired at the end of last year, and generics are already on their way.

5. Advair Diskus — 15.0 million

The next 2 prescriptions are both from GlaxoSmithKline and deal with breathing issues. Advair Diskus is used to treat COPD, which is, according to the National Institute of Health, the third leading cause of death in the US today. It’s also used to treat asthma, but as a regular therapy, not a rescue inhaler…

4. Ventolin HFA — 17.5 million

…which is where Ventolin HFA takes over. The rescue inhaler for asthmatics is the fourth-most prescribed drug in the U.S., and is touted to be safe for just about anyone more than four years old. Ventolin’s patent expires in 2015.

3. Nexium — 18.6 million

Oh the purple pills, but not the ones D12 rapped about a decade ago. Nexium, AstraZeneca’s big acid reflux drug, lost its patent in May 2014, meaning this might be one of the last appearances on this list. The extreme popularity of Nexium and drugs like it has resulted in some scary health developments across the population, including higher rates of bone fractures, C. diff, and pneumonia in those taking the drug.

2. Crestor — 22.5 million

Good cholesterol, bad cholesterol, heart disease, obesity, stroke, prostate cancer … high cholesterol and the problems it causes is a big problem in the US Cholesterol management drug Crestor is a household name, not just because of how it’s marketed by AstraZeneca, but because of how many Americans take the drug. The blockbuster also will not be challenged by generics until 2016 after a court battle in 2013.

1. Synthroid — 22.6 million

Marketed by AbbVie (formerly Abbott Laboratories), Synthroid has been on the market since 1958. Despite a very-expired patent, the name-brand drug was the most-prescribed drug during the 12 months studied. Synthroid is a synthetic hormone to treat hypothyroidism.