Ranked: The Most Prescribed Drugs in the U.S.
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Ranked: The Most Prescribed Drugs in the U.S.

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Ranked: The Most Prescribed Drugs in the U.S.

Every day, millions of people in the U.S. take prescribed drugs to help them live their lives.

As our understanding of medicine has evolved, we’ve been able to develop drugs to aid with some of the most common medical conditions—from pain and blood pressure drugs to asthma medication, thyroid treatments, and antidepressants.

This graphic uses prescribed medicines data from the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, released in 2021 for the 2019 calendar year. It also uses supporting drug and health information from MedlinePlus.

What are the Most Prescribed Drugs in America?

Sorting the annual prescribed medicines data by the total number of patients highlights how important and prevalent some drugs are in America.

The most prescribed drug, atorvastatin (sold under brand Lipitor), was prescribed to 24.5 million people in the U.S. in 2019, or 7.5% of the population. It was one of many statin medications listed, which are used to prevent cardiovascular disease and treat abnormal lipid levels.

In fact, a majority of the most prescribed drugs in the U.S. are used to treat high blood pressure or symptoms of it. That’s because 108 million or nearly half of adults in the U.S. have hypertension or high blood pressure.

Drug NameTotal U.S. Patients (2019)Brand NamePrimary Use
Atorvastatin24,493,971LipitorCholesterol
Amoxicillin20,368,921Amoxil, TrimoxAntibiotic
Lisinopril19,990,170Prinivil, ZestrilBlood Pressure
Levothyroxine19,698,087Synthroid, LevoxylThyroid
Albuterol19,085,418Ventolin, ProventilBreathing
Metformin17,430,765Glucophage, FortametDiabetes
Amlodipine16,419,181NorvascBlood Pressure
Metoprolol15,177,787Lopressor, Toprol XLBlood Pressure
Omeprazole12,869,290Losec, PrilosecStomach Acid
Losartan11,760,646CozaarBlood Pressure
Azithromycin11,577,286Zithromax, AzithrocinAntibiotic
Prednisone10,999,246Deltasone, OrasoneInflammation
Ibuprofen10,951,995Advil, MotrinPain
Hydrocodone/Acetaminophen10,409,764Vicodin/NorcoPain (Opioid)
Gabapentin9,818,634NeurontinSeizures
Fluticasone9,564,147Flovent, FlonaseBreathing
Hydrochlorothiazide9,358,879Apo-Hydro, MicrozideDiuretic
Simvastatin8,543,612ZocorCholesterol
Sertraline7,723,122Zoloft, LustralAntidepressant
Montelukast7,429,725SingulairBreathing
Pantoprazole6,777,996ProtonixStomach Acid
Furosemide6,640,042Lasix, FrusemideDiuretic
Meloxicam6,484,210Mobic, MetacamPain
Amoxicillin; Clavulanate6,468,086Augmentin, ClavulinAntibiotic
Cephalexin6,267,878Keflex, CeporexAntibiotic
Rosuvastatin6,129,254Crestor, RosulipCholesterol
Escitalopram5,544,406Cipralex, LexaproAntidepressant
Bupropion5,520,278Wellbutrin, ZybanAntidepressant
Tramadol5,496,843Ultram, ZytramPain (Opioid)
Pravastatin5,420,488Pravachol, SelektineCholesterol

Other common prescriptions include antibiotics like amoxicillin and azithromycin, used to treat bacterial infections, as well as levothyroxine, which was used by 19.7 million Americans to treat thyroid hormone deficiency.

Asthma medication albuterol (usually prescribed through an inhaler) rounded out the top five prescribed drugs with the most patients, followed closely by Type 2 diabetes medication glucophage.

The Top Medical Conditions Treated by Prescription Drugs

The prevalence of cardiovascular-related medication becomes clear when combining the total patients for each type of medication.

The total number of patients with prescribed medication for blood pressure or cholesterol combined for 33% of the U.S. population.

Compared to that, medication for pain or inflammation were the most frequent on the top 30 list with five occurrences, but were only prescribed to 13.6% of people. That includes hydrocodone (known by the brand name Vicodin) and tramadol (known by the brand name Ultram), two opioid medications.

Primary Use of Prescribed DrugU.S. Patients as % Pop (2019)
Blood Pressure19.4%
Antibiotic13.7%
Cholesterol13.6%
Pain/Inflammation13.6%
Breathing11.0%
Thyroid6.0%
Stomach Acid6.0%
Antidepressant5.7%
Diabetes5.3%
Diuretic4.9%
Seizures3.0%

Most of the top 30 prescribed medications for specific conditions saw patients total less than 6% of the U.S. population. They include thyroid issues, gastrointestinal conditions, and mental conditions treated by antidepressants (including panic disorder, anxiety disorders, and PTSD).

But it’s important to remember that some patients have multiple prescriptions for serious conditions with multiple symptoms, or comorbid conditions—when more than one disease or condition is present at the same time.

Drug Spending in the U.S.

A prescribed drug’s total number of patients doesn’t necessarily reflect how important it is, or how expensive it is for the end user.

Levothyroxine is the fourth-most prescribed drug by total patients, but the second-most prescribed drug by total prescriptions with 102.6 million in 2019 at an average cost of $25.10 per prescription.

More specialized medication like fluticasone had significantly less total prescriptions with 27.9 million, but an average cost of $97.68 per prescription.

Prices are influenced by a drug’s demand, whether or not it’s patented or available in generic form, and a country’s healthcare system. As far as OECD countries go, the U.S. ranks as the most costly almost across the board.

Since the current rankings look at the U.S. pre-COVID, next year’s prescription data will be illuminating as to the state of American health (and healthcare).

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Misc

Visualizing The Most Widespread Blood Types in Every Country

There are 8 common blood groups but 36 human blood types in total. Here we map the most widespread blood types in every country in the world.

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The Most Widespread Blood Types, by Country

Blood is essential to the human body’s functioning. It dispenses crucial nutrients throughout the body, exchanges oxygen and carbon dioxide, and carries our immune system’s “militia” of white blood cells and antibodies to stave off infections.

But not all blood is the same. The antigens in one’s blood determine their blood type classification: There are eight common blood type groups, and with different combinations of antigens and classifications, 36 human blood type groups in total.

Using data sourced from Wikipedia, we can map the most widespread blood types across the globe.

Overall Distribution of Blood Types

Of the 7.9 billion people living in the world, spread across 195 countries and 7 continents, the most common blood type is O+, with over 39% of the world’s population falling under this classification. The rarest, meanwhile, is AB-, with only 0.40% of the population having this particular blood type.

Breaking it down to the national level, these statistics begin to change. Since different genetic factors play a part in determining an individual’s blood type, every country and region tells a different story about its people.

Regional Distribution of Blood Types

Asia

Even though O+ remains the most common blood type here, blood type B is relatively common too. Nearly 20% of China’s population has this blood type, and it is also fairly common in India and other Central Asian countries.

Comparatively, in some West Asian countries like Armenia and Azerbaijan, the population with blood type A+ outweighs any others.

Americas

The O blood type is the most common globally and is carried by nearly 70% of South Americans. It is also the most common blood type in Canada and the United States.

Here is a breakdown of the most common blood types in the U.S. by race:

Most Common Blood Types in the U.S. by Race

Africa

O+ is a strong blood group classification among African countries. Countries like Ghana, Libya, Congo and Egypt, have more individuals with O- blood types than AB+.

Europe

The A blood group is common in Europe. Nearly 40% of Denmark, Norway, Austria, and Ukraine have this blood type.

Oceania

O+ and A+ are dominant blood types in the Oceanic countries, with only Fiji having a substantial B+ blood type population.

Middle East

More than 41% of the population displays the O+ blood group type, with Lebanon being the only country with a strong O- and A- blood type population.

The Caribbean

Nearly half of people in Caribbean countries have the blood type O+, though Jamaica has B+ as the most common blood type group.

Here is the classification of the blood types by every region in the world:

Most Common Blood Types in the World by Region

Unity in Diversity

Even though ethnicity and genetics play a vital role in determining a person’s blood type, we can see many different blood types distributed worldwide.

Blood provides an ideal opportunity for the study of human variation without cultural prejudice. It can be easily classified for many different genetically inherited blood typing systems.

Our individuality is a factor that helps determine our life, choices, and personalities. But at the end of the day, commonalities like blood are what bring us together.

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Business

Pandemic Recovery: Have North American Downtowns Bounced Back?

All North American downtowns are facing a sluggish recovery, but some are still seeing more than 80% less foot traffic than pre-pandemic times

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Pandemic Recovery: Have Downtowns Bounced Back?

As we continue on our journey towards recovery from the impacts of the pandemic, North American offices that sat empty for months have started to welcome back in-person workers.

This small step towards normalcy has sparked questions around the future of office life—will office culture eventually bounce back to pre-pandemic levels, or is remote work here to stay?

It’s impossible to predict the future, but one way to gauge the current state of office life is by looking at foot traffic across city centers in North America. This graphic measures just that, using data from Avison Young.

Change in Downtown Office Traffic

According to the data, which measures foot traffic in major office buildings in 23 different metropolitan hubs across North America, remains drastically below pre-pandemic levels.

Across all major cities included in the index, average weekday visitor volume has fallen by 73.7% since the early months of 2020. Here’s a look at each individual city’s change in foot traffic, from March 2, 2020 to Oct 11, 2021:

CityCountryChange in Foot Traffic
Austin🇺🇸-51.70%
Calgary🇨🇦-54.50%
Boston🇺🇸-54.90%
New York🇺🇸-60.50%
San Francisco🇺🇸-60.80%
Edmonton🇨🇦-62.20%
Houston🇺🇸-67.90%
Chicago🇺🇸-68.10%
Vancouver🇨🇦-68.20%
Los Angeles🇺🇸-68.60%
Philadelphia🇺🇸-69.00%
Washington, DC🇺🇸-69.40%
San Francisco Peninsula🇺🇸-70.00%
Denver🇺🇸-73.50%
Nashville🇺🇸-75.60%
East Bay/Oakland🇺🇸-76.10%
Atlanta🇺🇸-77.50%
Dallas🇺🇸-79.80%
Montreal🇨🇦-80.30%
Toronto🇨🇦-81.20%
Miami🇺🇸-82.20%
Silicon Valley🇺🇸-82.60%
Ottawa🇨🇦-87.70%

The Canadian city of Calgary is a somewhat unique case. On one hand, foot traffic has bounced back stronger than many other downtowns across North America. On the other hand, the city has one of the highest commercial vacancy rates in North America, and there are existential questions about what comes next for the city.

Interestingly, a number of cities with a high proportion of tech jobs, such as Austin, Boston, and San Francisco bounced back the strongest post-pandemic. Of course, there is one noteworthy exception to that rule.

A Tale of Two Cities

Silicon Valley has experienced one of the most significant drops in foot traffic, at -82.6%. Tech as an industry has seen one of the largest increases in remote work, as Bay Area workers look to escape high commuter traffic and high living expenses. A recent survey found that 53% of tech workers in the region said they are considering moving, with housing costs being the primary reason most respondents cited.

Meanwhile, in a very different part of North America, another city is experienced a sluggish rebound in foot traffic, but for very different reasons. Ottawa, Canada’s capital, is facing empty streets and struggling small businesses that rely on the droves of government workers that used to commute to downtown offices. Unlike Silicon Valley, where tech workers are taking advantage of flexible work options, many federal workers in Ottawa are still working from home without a clear plan on returning to the workplace.

It’s also worth noting that these two cities are home to a lot of single-occupant office buildings, which is a focus of this data set.

Some Businesses Remain Hopeful

Despite a slow return to office life, some employers are snapping up commercial office space in preparation for a potential mass return to the office.

Back in March 2021, Google announced it was planning to spend over $7 billion on U.S. office space and data centers. The tech giant held true to its promise—in September, Google purchased a Manhattan commercial building for $2.1 billion.

Other tech companies like Alphabet and Facebook have also been growing their office spaces throughout the pandemic. In August 2021, Amazon leased new office space in six major U.S. cities, and in September 2020, Facebook bought a 400,000 square foot complex in Bellevue, Washington.

Will More Employees Return or Stay Remote?

It’s important to note that we’re still in the midst of pandemic recovery, which means the jury’s still out on what our post-pandemic world will look like.

Will different cities and industries eventually recover in different ways, or are we approaching the realities of “new normal” foot traffic in North American city centers?

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