The Top 50 Drugs Prescribed in the United States

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Close-Up of Prescription Medicine Bottles Containing Pills and Tablets

Every year, there are more than 3 billion outpatient prescriptions filled at U.S. pharmacies. If you’ve been to a pharmacy lately, this probably isn’t surprising. Most pharmacies are constantly busy and you’ve probably had to wait to pick up your medicines. Here’s a look at the top 50 prescription drugs in the United States. How many of them are familiar to you? (List includes drugs doctors prescribe that may be available over the counter.)

The Top 10 Prescription Drugs

1. Levothyroxine

Levothyroxine treats hypothyroidism. It is a synthetic version of the thyroid hormone T4. Brand names include Levothroid, Levoxyl, Synthroid, and Unithroid. Over the last 10 years, levothyroxine has always landed in the top three prescription drugs. Total prescriptions: 114,344,324.

Lisinopril is an ACE (angiotensin-converting enzyme) inhibitor. Doctors use it in the treatment of high blood pressure, heart failure, and following a heart attack. Brand names include Prinivil and Zestril. It has bumped back and forth between the first and second spots over the last 10 years. Total prescriptions: 110,611,325.

3. Atorvastatin

Atorvastatin treats high cholesterol. It is a member of the statins or HMG-CoA reductase inhibitor class. The class has been around for decades. Atorvastatin has gained on other drugs in the class since 2011. The brand name is Lipitor. Total prescriptions: 96,942,509.

There are more than 30 million Americans with diabetes. So, it’s 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: 81,305,416.

5. Amlodipine

Amlodipine is a calcium channel blocker. It treats high blood pressure and angina (chest pain). Since it became available as a generic drug in 2005, it has gained popularity and risen into the top 10 drugs. And out-of-pocket costs for the drug have gone down. The brand name is Norvasc. Total prescriptions: 75,201,622.

6. Metoprolol

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 last decade. Brand names include Lopressor and Toprol XL. Total prescriptions: 74,019,646.

7. Omeprazole

Omeprazole treats heartburn, GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), and stomach ulcers. It was the first member of the PPI (proton pump inhibitor) class to gain FDA approval. Its use has increased since it became available over the counter. This also decreased the out-of-pocket cost for the drug. The brand name is Prilosec. Total prescriptions: 70,626,981.

8. Simvastatin

Simvastatin is another member of the statin class. It’s usage peaked in 2011 and has been declining since then. In part, this is likely the result of safety warnings from the FDA regarding maximum dosages and risk of side effects. Still, it remains the second most popular statin after atorvastatin. The brand name is Zocor. Total prescriptions: 65,144,489.

9. Losartan

Losartan is an ARB (angiotensin receptor blocker). Doctors use it to treat high blood pressure and to treat kidney disease in people with diabetes. Losartan broke into the top 50 drugs in 2011 and has been rising ever since. The brand name is Cozaar. Total prescriptions: 49,281,055.

10. Albuterol

Albuterol is an older drug, with commercialization dating back 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: 47,109,712.

Other Top-Selling Prescription Drugs

The remaining top-selling prescription drugs include:

  1. Gabapentin (Neurontin). Total prescriptions: 44,154,514
  2. Hydrochlorothiazide (Esidrix, Hydrodiuril, Microzide, Oretic, Zide). Total prescriptions: 43,472,270
  3. Hydrocodone/acetaminophen (Lortab, Norco, Vicodin, various others). Total prescriptions: 43,109,574
  4. Sertraline (Zoloft). Total prescriptions: 37,105,238
  5. Furosemide (Lasix). Total prescriptions: 32,692,726
  6. Fluticasone (Flonase, Flovent, Cutivate, various others). Total prescriptions: 29,899,932
  7. Acetaminophen (Tylenol, various others). Total prescriptions: 29,325,845
  8. Amoxicillin (Amoxil, Polymox, Trimox, various others). Total prescriptions: 28,117,284
  9. Alprazolam (Xanax). Total prescriptions: 27,030,725
  10. Atenolol (Tenormin). Total prescriptions: 26,739,322
  11. Citalopram (Celexa). Total prescriptions: 26,387,590
  12. Insulin glargine (Lantus, Toujeo). Total prescriptions: 26,201,314
  13. Montelukast (Singulair). Total prescriptions: 25,326,687
  14. Trazodone (Desyrel, various others). Total prescriptions: 25,300,258
  15. Pantoprazole (Protonix). Total prescriptions: 25,270,699
  16. Escitalopram (Lexapro). Total prescriptions: 25,240,490
  17. Pravastatin (Pravachol). Total prescriptions: 24,666,149
  18. Bupropion (Budeprion, Buproban, Wellbutrin, Zyban, various others). Total prescriptions: 23,811,613
  19. Fluoxetine (Prozac, Rapiflux, Sarafem, Selfemra). Total prescriptions: 23,729,286
  20. Carvedilol (Coreg). Total prescriptions: 23,338,886
  21. Prednisone (Deltasone, various others). Total prescriptions: 23,242,849
  22. Tamsulosin (Flomax). Total prescriptions: 22,533,461
  23. Potassium (K-Dur, Klor-Con, Klotrix, Micro-K, Slow-K, various others). Total prescriptions: 22,380,348
  24. Clopidogrel (Plavix). Total prescriptions: 21,398,662
  25. Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, various others). Total prescriptions: 21,329,751
  26. Meloxicam (Mobic). Total prescriptions: 21,290,692
  27. Rosuvastatin (Crestor). Total prescriptions: 19,917,442
  28. Aspirin (various). Total prescriptions: 19,753,190
  29. Tramadol (Ultram, various others). Total prescriptions: 19,479,377
  30. Zolpidem (Ambien, Intermezzo, various others). Total prescriptions: 19,102,809
  31. Warfarin (Coumadin). Total prescriptions: 18,718,271
  32. Clonazepam (Klonopin). Total prescriptions: 18,675,679
  33. Propranolol (Inderal, InnoPran, Pronol). Total prescriptions: 18,416,025
  34. Glipizide (Glucotrol). Total prescriptions: 17,884,980
  35. Dextroamphetamine/amphetamine salts (Adderall). Total prescriptions: 17,363,796
  36. Cyclobenzaprine (Flexeril). Total prescriptions: 16,170,425
  37. Methylphenidate (Concerta, Metadate, Ritalin, various others). Total prescriptions: 15,599,244
  38. Duloxetine (Cymbalta). Total prescriptions: 15,377,184
  39. Azithromycin (Zithromax). Total prescriptions: 15,292,543
  40. Ranitidine (Zantac). Total prescriptions: 15,285,992

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 Americans use medical care, including prescription drugs. AHRQ surveys patients and healthcare providers to compile this information. Because it is a survey, it includes drugs doctors prescribe that may be available over the counter, such as aspirin. There is an inherent delay between collecting the data and issuing the DrugStats list. So, the top selling prescription drugs for 2019 contains prescriptions from 2016.

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  1. About the ClinCalc Database. ClinCalc. https://clincalc.com/DrugStats/About.aspx 
  2. Drugs, Herbs, and Supplements. MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine. https://medlineplus.gov/druginformation.html 
  3. FDA Drug Safety Communication: New Restrictions, Contraindications, and Dose Limitations for Zocor (simvastatin) to Reduce the Risk of Muscle Injury. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. https://www.fda.gov/drugs/drug-safety-and-availability/fda-drug-safety-communication-new-restrictions-contraindications-and-dose-limitations-zocor 
  4. Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS). Agency for Healthcare Quality and Research. https://www.ahrq.gov/data/meps.html 
  5. Statistics About Diabetes. American Diabetes Association. https://www.diabetes.org/resources/statistics/statistics-about-diabetes 
  6. Stein SW, Thiel CG. The history of therapeutic aerosols: a chronological review. J Aerosol Med Pulm Drug Deliv. 2017 Feb 1; 30(1): 20–41.
  7. Top 300 Drugs of 2019. ClinCalc. https://clincalc.com/DrugStats/Top300Drugs.aspx
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