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 Name||Total U.S. Patients (2019)||Brand Name||Primary Use|
|Lisinopril||19,990,170||Prinivil, Zestril||Blood Pressure|
|Metoprolol||15,177,787||Lopressor, Toprol XL||Blood Pressure|
|Omeprazole||12,869,290||Losec, Prilosec||Stomach Acid|
|Amoxicillin; Clavulanate||6,468,086||Augmentin, Clavulin||Antibiotic|
|Tramadol||5,496,843||Ultram, Zytram||Pain (Opioid)|
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 Drug||U.S. Patients as % Pop (2019)|
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).
The Global Syringe Shortage Threatening Vaccine Efforts
Routine vaccination saves millions of lives every single year, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
But even though global vaccination coverage is improving, closing the gap in immunization has led to skyrocketing demand for syringes—which is forecast to result in a major shortage that could make matters worse.
In the above infographic from NuGen Medical Devices, we explore the factors leading to the syringe shortage and take a look at the company’s innovative needle-free solution that could play an important role in closing the immunization gap.
The Immunization Gap
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, millions of people around the world struggled to get access to routine vaccinations.
In fact, as of 2019 more than 19 million children around the world were considered to be “zero-dose” which means that they did not receive any routine vaccinations.
Moreover, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, global immunization dropped even further with 25 million children missing out on routine vaccines in 2021 alone.
Why is Immunization So Important?
Vaccinations prevent against over 20 life-threatening diseases and save between 2-3 million deaths per year, making them—as the WHO describes—the foundation of healthcare systems and an indisputable human right.
As countries work through a backlog of vaccinations to close the immunization gap that has worsened since the pandemic, demand for syringes has significantly increased.
The Result: A Global Syringe Deficit
In 2022, the WHO warned that we could see a shortage of up to 2 billion syringes if manufacturing can’t keep up. This could result in the severe disruption to routine vaccinations and promote unsafe recycling of syringes in order to administer vaccines.
But the issue goes far beyond a supply shortage of syringes. COVID-19 has brought conventional syringe vaccines into sharp focus, with many criticizing the challenges associated with them.
|Vaccine Hesitancy: |
1 in 10 Americans have an extreme fear of needles and therefore will avoid vaccination.
The cost of essential syringe vaccination makes them inaccessible for people living in low and middle income countries.
|Cost of Logistics: |
Geographical constrains, a lack of infrastructure, and the need to keep vaccines at sub-zero temperatures prevent them from reaching those who need it the most.
7.8 billion needles are discarded in the U.S. every year.
|Reduce Fear: |
Needle-free devices remove the fear of syringes.
|Reduce Costs: |
Needle-free devices are lower in cost per injection compared to conventional needles.
|Minimizes Cold Chain: |
NuGen MD’s next generation powder injectables minimize the need for a cold chain (keeping vaccines at sub-zero temperatures) entirely.
Needle-free technology reduces environmental waste significantly.
With conventional needles facing so many challenges, it’s no surprise that investors are taking interest in viable alternatives. What’s more, these alternatives don’t just apply to vaccinations, they can also work for people with diabetes, dentists, and pet care.
Enter Needle-free Devices from NuGen MD
Needle-free devices have the potential to bridge the gap in immunization amid the global syringe shortage, solve some of the key challenges limiting vaccine uptake, and more importantly, benefit the lives of millions of people.
How Do They Work?
NuGen’s needle-free devices use a simple spring-loaded mechanism which uses pressure to release the liquid drug and penetrate the skin. In less than one-tenth of a second, the drug is dispensed more safely and evenly compared to needle syringes. It’s also virtually painless and leaves no mark on the skin.
>>>Interested in investing in NuGen Medical Devices? To learn more about their plans to pioneer the future of needle-free drug delivery, click this link now.
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