Ranked: The Most Prescribed Drugs in the US

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Since the beginning of human life on earth, people have used various healing ingredients to make ointments or tablets. People utilized different plants or animal parts to make medicines that relieve and cure several symptoms in ancient times. 

Modern medicine has come a long way since those times. The progress in this industry is shockingly impressive as pharmaceuticals strive to make safer and more effective drugs for treating numerous illnesses. It has resulted in increasing the life expectancy of people worldwide. 

One thing to note is that prescription medicines are different from over-the-counter ones as they are strong and more effective in targeting specific illnesses requiring doctor’s supervision. 

Most Prescribed Drugs in the US 

Millions of people visit doctors every day and purchase prescribed medicines to live healthy lives. This article enlists top prescribed drugs in the US, for which the data is extracted from the official sources of the US Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. The data discussed here is from the year 2019. 

The most prescribed drug is ranked according to the number of patients who purchased it after showing the prescriptions. The following table highlights ten of the most prescribed medications in the US, as gauged by the total estimated number of prescriptions in the US in 2019. 

Most Prescribed Drugs in the US

Top 10 Prescribed Drugs in the US 

Doctor or physician writing diagnosis and giving a medical prescription to male Patient
Doctor or physician writing diagnosis and giving a medical prescription to male Patient

 1. Atorvastatin

Atorvastatin is the most prescribed drug in the US, according to the pharmaceutical data of 2019. It was prescribed about 112,104,359 times by physicians across the country. Compared to the data collected in 2013, the annual number of prescriptions drastically increased in 2019. 

This drug is primarily used to regulate blood cholesterol levels. According to CDC, cholesterol was one of the primary contributors to the death rates in the US in 2019. Atorvastatin belongs to a class of medicines that target decreasing low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels in the blood. This class of drug is restricted to prescribed medicines only. 

2. Levothyroxine 

The second most prescribed drug in the US is levothyroxine, prescribed to about 102,595,103 patients in 2019. It is a thyroid hormone prescribed to patients with hypothyroidism (a condition wherein the amount of thyroid hormone produced by the gland is not enough). It belongs to the class of medicines known as ‘hormones’ and is strictly used according to a doctor’s prescription. 

According to statistics, approximately 19,698,087 patients presented with thyroid issues in the US in 2019. It is an oral medicine that adds to the thyroid gland’s amount of thyroid hormone produced. Over five years (2013-2019), the frequency of prescribing this medicine increased from 2015 to 2016 only.   

3. Lisinopril

Lisinopril is the third most prescribed medicine in the US. It was prescribed 91,862,708 times to approximately 19,990,170 patients in 2019. It is an essential medicine for treating high blood pressure in adults. However, it can also be prescribed to children above six years in several cases. Lisinopril also significantly helps in recovery after a heart attack.

The data shows that the number of patients presenting with high blood pressure requiring this medicine in the US has remained stable over five years (2013-2019). However, the frequency of prescribing this medicine has slightly decreased since 2014. 

4. Metformin 

Metformin is the fourth top prescribed medicine in the US. According to the data by ClinCalc, metformin was prescribed 85,739,443 times in 2019. Its frequency of prescription has suffered many changes in five years (2013-2019). The lowest number of prescriptions for metformin have been in 2013 and 2017, while it was prescribed most in 2019. 

Metformin is a drug belonging to the class of medicines called biguanides. It helps in regulating the amount of blood glucose in our bodies. It is used in combination with other drugs prescribed to treat only type-2 diabetes.

5. Metoprolol

Metoprolol is prescribed to treat high blood pressure conditions and for better recovery after a heart attack. It is quite effective in preventing chest pains, also called angina. Metoprolol belongs to the class of medicines called beta-blockers. 

The number of prescriptions of metoprolol increased in 2019 and is predicted to increase in the coming years. It was prescribed 74,578,817 times to about 14,177,787 patients in the US in 2019. Metoprolol plays a vital role in relaxing the blood vessels and slowing down the heart rate, helping improve blood flow and thus, lowering blood pressure levels.

6. Amlodipine 

Amlodipine was the sixth most prescribed drug in the US in 2019. It also targets treating high blood pressure in adults and children above six years. It is primarily used in combination to prevent angina (chest pain) in hypertensive people. It belongs to the class of medicines that block the calcium channels and works to bring down the blood pressure levels by relaxing the blood vessels in our bodies. 

It was prescribed about 73,542,114 times to an estimate of 16,419,181 patients across the country in 2019. Its frequency of prescription has been increasing from 2013 to 2019, while the number of patients is growing slightly.  

7. Albuterol

On the seventh rank is Albuterol, which was prescribed about 60,679,987 times in 2019. According to an analysis of five years (2013-2019), Albuterol was prescribed the most in 2019. 2019 also witnessed the most number of patients in need of this medicine as the estimated number of patients was 19,085,418. 

Albuterol belongs to a class of medications called bronchodilators, and it is prescribed to treat wheezing, chest tightness, coughing due to lung issues, or difficulty in breathing. It is a vital medicine prescribed in combination with other drugs to treat chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases (COPD) such as asthma. As the name suggests, Albuterol targets relaxing the air passages, making breathing easier. 

8. Omeprazole

Omeprazole is a medication used to treat stomach-related issues. It is specifically prescribed to relieve the symptoms of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD). It is a painful and uncomfortable condition wherein the acid from the stomach flows back to the esophagus, thus resulting in heartburn and damage to the esophagus.

Omeprazole stands eighth in the list of most prescribed medicines in the US, with an estimated number of 52,546,641 prescriptions in 2019. Although the number of patients requiring this medicine has slightly increased over five years (2013-2019), the frequency of prescription of Omeprazole has decreased significantly. 

9. Losartan

Losartan is prescribed by physicians to treat high blood pressure and ventricular hypertrophy. It is also used to effectively reduce the risk of stroke in hypertensive people. It is an essential medicine used to treat kidney diseases in type-2 diabetic people. It belongs to the class of medications called angiotensin II receptors antagonists. 

According to the data by ClinCalc, Losartan was prescribed 51,773,869 times to an estimated 11,760,646 patients across the country. Losartan’s frequency of prescription has increased steadily since 2013 and reached its peak in 2019. 

10. Gabapentin

Gabapentin was the tenth most prescribed drug in the US in 2019. The frequency of its prescription has been on a steady increase since 2013. In 2019, the estimated number of prescriptions of Gabapentin was 47,149,505. It is an essential medicine used to control seizures caused by epilepsy. Gabapentin is prescribed in the form of tablets, capsules, and oral solutions. 

It belongs to the class of medicines called anticonvulsants. It also relieves the pain of postherpetic neuralgia (PHN), characterized by burning or stabbing pain or aches resulting from a shingles attack. Gabapentin targets slowing down the hyperactivity in the brain, which paves the way for seizures. It also alters the way our body senses pains, thus, relieving the pain of PHN. 

High Blood Pressure is the Most Common Health Issue in the US 

A glance at the ranking of the most prescribed drugs in the US immediately emphasizes high blood pressure as the most occurring health issue in the country’s population. Over 19.4% of the US population suffers from high blood pressure and takes prescribed medicines. It is one of the primary causes or contributors of death in the US, as per the official mortality rates and their causes. 

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