The Top 50 Drugs Prescribed in the United States
- bacteria infections
- gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- high cholesterol
- high blood pressure
- thyroid disease
Here is a list of the top 50 prescription drugs in the United States. This list also includes drugs doctors prescribe that may be available over the counter (OTC).
Atorvastatin treats high cholesterol. It is a member of the statins or HMG-CoA reductase inhibitor class. The class has been around for decades. Since 2011, Atorvastatin has been prescribed more than other drugs in its class. The brand name is Lipitor. Total prescriptions: 114,509,814 representing 26,640,141 patients.
Levothyroxine treats hypothyroidism. It is a synthetic version of the thyroid hormone T4. Brand names include Levothroid, Levoxyl, Synthroid, and Unithroid. Over the past 10 years, levothyroxine has always landed in the top three prescription drugs. Total prescriptions: 98,970,640 representing 20,225,373 patients.
There are more than 37 million people in the United States with diabetes. So, it is no surprise that metformin — a drug that treats type 2 diabetes — has consistently remained in the top 10 drugs. Brand names include Fortamet, Glucophage, Glumetza, and Riomet. Total prescriptions: 92,591,486 representing 20,122,987 patients.
Lisinopril is an angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitor. Doctors use it to treat high blood pressure, heart failure, and following a heart attack. Brand names include Prinivil and Zestril. It has bumped back and forth between the top four spots over the past 10 years. Total prescriptions: 88,597,017 representing 19,816,361 patients.
Amlodipine is a calcium channel blocker. It treats high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, and angina (chest pain). Since it became a generic drug in the 2000s, it has gained popularity and risen into the top 10 drugs. Norvasc is the original brand name. Total prescriptions: 69,786,684 representing 16,799,810 patients.
Metoprolol is a beta-blocker. Doctors use it to treat high blood pressure, angina, heart failure, and following a heart attack. Metoprolol usage has remained fairly steady over the past decade. Brand names include Lopressor and Toprol XL. Total prescriptions: 66,413,692 representing 15,007,908 patients.
Albuterol is an older drug, with commercialization dating to the 1960s. It was also a breakthrough in treating asthma. Today, doctors use it to treat bronchospasm from a variety of lung problems. Its consistent top ranking is a testament to its effectiveness. Brand names include Accuneb, Proair, Proventil, and Ventolin. Total prescriptions: 61,948,347 representing 17,902,020 patients.
Omeprazole treats heartburn, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), and stomach ulcers. It was the first member of the proton pump inhibitor (PPI) class to gain Food and Drug Administration approval. Its use has increased since it became available OTC. This also decreased the out-of-pocket cost for the drug. The brand name is Prilosec. Total prescriptions: 56,300,064 representing 13,879,629 patients.
Losartan is an angiotensin receptor blocker (ARB). Doctors use it to treat high blood pressure, heart failure, and kidney disease in people with diabetes. Losartan broke into the top 50 drugs in 2011 and has been rising since. The brand name is Cozaar. Total prescriptions: 54,815,411 representing 12,690,563 patients.
Gabapentin falls in the anticonvulsant class of drugs. Along with other medications, it can help control partial seizures in people with epilepsy. It has other neurological uses, including treating nerve pain and restless legs syndrome. Brand names include Horizant and Neurontin. Total prescriptions: 49,961,066 representing 10,571,700 patients.
The remaining 40 top-selling prescription drugs include:
- Hydrochlorothiazide (Esidrix, Hydrodiuril, Microzide, Oretic), a diuretic to treat high blood pressure and fluid retention. Total prescriptions: 41,476,098 representing 10,031,904 patients
- Sertraline (Zoloft), an antidepressant. Total prescriptions: 38,219,814 representing 7,768,366 patients
- Simvastatin (Zocor), a statin drug to treat high cholesterol. Total prescriptions: 36,600,871 representing 8,557,525 patients
- Montelukast (Singulair), treats asthma and allergies. Total prescriptions: 31,984,479 representing 7,227,021 patients
- Escitalopram (Lexapro), an antidepressant. Total prescriptions: 30,605,646 representing 6,342,599 patients
- Hydrocodone/acetaminophen (Lortab, Norco, Vicodin, various others), a narcotic analgesic. Total prescriptions: 30,100,356representing 8,587,152 patients
- Rosuvastatin (Crestor, Ezallor), a statin drug to treat high cholesterol. Total prescriptions: 29,750,488 representing 7,393,686 patients
- Bupropion (Aplenzin, Wellbutrin, Zyban, various others), treats depression and can help with quitting smoking. Total prescriptions: 28,889,368 representing 5,801,282 patients
- Furosemide (Lasix), a diuretic to treat high blood pressure and fluid retention. Total prescriptions: 26,786,296 representing 6,405,654 patients
- Pantoprazole (Protonix), a PPI for heartburn, GERD, and ulcers. Total prescriptions: 26,604,040 representing 6,814,036 patients
- Trazodone (Desyrel, Oleptro), an antidepressant. Total prescriptions: 26,210,731 representing 5,294,364 patients
- Dextroamphetamine/amphetamine salts (Adderall), a stimulant for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Total prescriptions: 26,080,151 representing 3,633,541 patients
- Fluticasone (Flonase, Flovent, Cutivate, various others), a corticosteroid. Total prescriptions: 24,777,490 representing 7,805,740 patients
- Tamsulosin (Flomax), treats an enlarged prostate. Total prescriptions: 24,692,402 representing 5,856,108 patients
- Fluoxetine (Prozac, others), an antidepressant. Total prescriptions: 23,403,050 representing 4,717,183 patients
- Carvedilol (Coreg), a beta-blocker. Total prescriptions: 23,159,628 representing 4,948,170 patients
- Duloxetine (Cymbalta), an antidepressant. Total prescriptions: 22,546,920 representing 4,461,604 patients
- Meloxicam (Mobic), a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) used to treat pain and inflammation. Total prescriptions: 19,808,581 representing 6,057,630 patients
- Clopidogrel (Plavix), prevents blood clots. Total prescriptions: 19,377,527 representing 4,340,688 patients
- Prednisone (Deltasone, various others), a corticosteroid. Total prescriptions: 19,044,926 representing 9,203,354 patients
- Citalopram (Celexa), an antidepressant. Total prescriptions: 18,549,176 representing 3,683,842 patients
- Insulin glargine (Lantus, Toujeo), treats diabetes. Total prescriptions: 17,973,209 representing 3,662,505 patients
- Potassium chloride (K-Dur, Klor-Con, Klotrix, Micro-K, Slow-K, various others), a potassium replacement. Total prescriptions: 17,811,732 representing 4,637,643 patients
- Pravastatin (Pravachol), a statin drug to treat high cholesterol. Total prescriptions: 17,549,151 representing 4,132,511 patients
- Tramadol (Ultram, various others), a narcotic analgesic. Total prescriptions: 17,475,419 representing 4,878,951 patients
- Aspirin (various), a pain reliever and anticoagulant. Total prescriptions: 17,287,372 representing 4,741,732 patients
- Alprazolam (Xanax), a benzodiazepine used to treat anxiety. Total prescriptions: 16,780,805 representing 3,632,458 patients
- Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, various others), an NSAID. Total prescriptions: 16,533,209 representing 8,896,328 patients
- Cyclobenzaprine (Amrix, Flexeril), a muscle relaxant. Total prescriptions: 16,151,696 representing 5,129,829 patients
- Amoxicillin (Amoxil, Polymox, Trimox, various others), an antibiotic. Total prescriptions: 15,922,907 representing 12,780,652 patients
- Methylphenidate (Concerta, Metadate, Ritalin, various others), a stimulant for ADHD. Total prescriptions: 15,449,350representing 2,441,634 patients
- Allopurinol (Zyloprim), to treat gout and other conditions with high uric acid. Total prescriptions: 15,303,283 representing 3,606,249 patients
- Venlafaxine (Effexor, Effexor XR), an antidepressant. Total prescriptions: 15,022,423 representing 2,863,619 patients
- Clonazepam (Klonopin), a benzodiazepine. Total prescriptions: 14,758,212 representing 2,498,126 patients
- Ethinyl estradiol/norethindrone (various), an oral contraceptive. Total prescriptions: 14,716,809 representing 2,955,082 patients
- Ergocalciferol (Drisdol), a vitamin D analog. Total prescriptions: 14,670,983 representing 4,448,964 patients
- Zolpidem (Ambien, Edluar, Intermezzo, Zolpimist), a sedative-hypnotic for insomnia. Total prescriptions: 14,272,253 representing 2,592,750 patients
- Apixaban (Eliquis), treats and prevents blood clots. Total prescriptions: 13,918,650 representing 3,305,979 patients
- Glipizide (Glucotrol), treats diabetes. Total prescriptions: 13,674,142 representing 3,383,057 patients
- Lisinopril/hydrochlorothiazide (Prinzide, Zestoretic), a combination ACE inhibitor and diuretic. Total prescriptions: 13,559,563 representing 2,899,536 patients
These rankings for the most common prescription drugs come from the ClinCalc DrugStats database. This database estimates prescription drug usage from the annual Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS).
MEPS is a project of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). It measures how people in the United States use medical care, including prescription drugs.
AHRQ surveys patients and prescribers to compile this information. Because it is a survey, it includes drugs doctors prescribe that may be available OTC, such as aspirin.
There is an inherent delay between collecting the data and issuing the DrugStats list. So, the top-selling prescription drugs for the year contain prescriptions from two years prior.
Looking at the top prescription drugs each year can help identify trends. It is also a source for pharmacists and healthcare professionals as they deliver excellent patient care. Many of the same drugs have remained in the top 10 for several years. These treat some of the most common diseases in the United States, including diabetes and heart disease.