The Top 50 Drugs Prescribed in the United States

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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. 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: 112,474,023.

2. 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: 105,773,990.

3. Lisinopril

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 three spots over the last 10 years. Total prescriptions: 97,608,879.

4. Metformin

There are more than 34 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: 83,762,981.

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: 75,811,947.

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: 71,581,961.

7. 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: 60,526,457.

8. 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: 58,364,556.

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: 50,479,750.

10. Simvastatin

Simvastatin is another member of the statin class. Its 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: 48,007,043.

Other Top-Selling Prescription Drugs

The remaining 40 top-selling prescription drugs include:

  1. Gabapentin (Neurontin). Total prescriptions: 45,586,654
  2. Hydrocodone/acetaminophen (Lortab, Norco, Vicodin, various others). Total prescriptions: 42,073,176
  3. Hydrochlorothiazide (Esidrix, Hydrodiuril, Microzide, Oretic, Zide). Total prescriptions: 40,575,075
  4. Sertraline (Zoloft). Total prescriptions: 38,383,042
  5. Montelukast (Singulair). Total prescriptions: 35,222,630
  6. Fluticasone (Flonase, Flovent, Cutivate, various others). Total prescriptions: 34,253,764
  7. Amoxicillin (Amoxil, Polymox, Trimox, various others). Total prescriptions: 31,371,675
  8. Furosemide (Lasix). Total prescriptions: 29,857,945
  9. Pantoprazole (Protonix). Total prescriptions: 28,958,134
  10. Acetaminophen (Tylenol, various others). Total prescriptions: 27,907,360
  11. Prednisone (Deltasone, various others). Total prescriptions: 27,057,494
  12. Escitalopram (Lexapro). Total prescriptions: 25,978,773
  13. Fluoxetine (Prozac, Rapiflux, Sarafem, Selfemra). Total prescriptions: 25,619,277
  14. Dextroamphetamine/amphetamine salts (Adderall). Total prescriptions: 25,331,775
  15. Tramadol (Ultram, various others). Total prescriptions: 24,952,328
  16. Insulin glargine (Lantus, Toujeo). Total prescriptions: 24,911,721
  17. Bupropion (Budeprion, Buproban, Wellbutrin, Zyban, various others). Total prescriptions: 24,488,843
  18. Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, various others). Total prescriptions: 24,453,501
  19. Rosuvastatin (Crestor). Total prescriptions: 24,138,061
  20. Pravastatin (Pravachol). Total prescriptions: 24,022,031
  21. Trazodone (Desyrel, various others). Total prescriptions: 23,889,624
  22. Tamsulosin (Flomax). Total prescriptions: 23,254,004
  23. Carvedilol (Coreg). Total prescriptions: 22,737,638
  24. Meloxicam (Mobic). Total prescriptions: 22,610,690
  25. Citalopram (Celexa). Total prescriptions: 22,224,263
  26. Duloxetine (Cymbalta). Total prescriptions: 21,217,653
  27. Alprazolam (Xanax). Total prescriptions: 20,843,479
  28. Potassium (K-Dur, Klor-Con, Klotrix, Micro-K, Slow-K, various others). Total prescriptions: 20,414,037
  29. Clopidogrel (Plavix). Total prescriptions: 20,016,095
  30. Aspirin (various). Total prescriptions: 19,750,180
  31. Ranitidine (Zantac). Total prescriptions: 18,739,686
  32. Atenolol (Tenormin). Total prescriptions: 18,644,884
  33. Cyclobenzaprine (Flexeril). Total prescriptions: 18,041,836
  34. Glipizide (Glucotrol). Total prescriptions: 17,549,602
  35. Methylphenidate (Concerta, Metadate, Ritalin, various others). Total prescriptions: 17,467,265
  36. Azithromycin (Zithromax). Total prescriptions: 17,102,628
  37. Clonazepam (Klonopin). Total prescriptions: 17,064,643
  38. Oxycodone (Oxaydo, Oxycontin, Roxicodone, various others). Total prescriptions: 16,967,479
  39. Allopurinol (Aloprim, Lopurin, Zyloprim). Total prescriptions: 16,374,431
  40. Venlafaxine (Effexor, Effexor XR). Total prescriptions: 16,121,149

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, this top-selling prescription drugs list for 2021 represents prescriptions from 2019.

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THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
  1. About the ClinCalc Database. ClinCalc. https://clincalc.com/DrugStats/About.aspx
  2. Drugs, Herbs, and Supplements. MedlinePlus, National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health. 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 200 Drugs of 2021. ClinCalc. https://clincalc.com/DrugStats/Top200Drugs.aspx