The Ten Most Popular Prescription Meds in the U.S.
Can you guess which is #1?
GoodRx is a company that sells prescription meds at a discounted rate. Recently, they looked at pharmacy claims and compiled data to determine the top selling prescription meds.
Not surprisingly, cost may have something to do with a med’s popularity. All of the prescription meds in the top ten cost than $15 for a month’s prescription, and have generic options.
Besides cost, the popularity of a prescription med generally says a lot about Americans, our health, and our mental health. While you may not be surprised at the drugs that comprise this list, you may still find the results a bit disturbing – especially when you realize that many of these conditions (but certainly not all) are preventable.
Author’s Note: This list and accompanying information is meant to be helpful, and not to disparage anyone who requires and/or is taking these medications for their condition.
#10. Norvas (amlodipine)
Norvasc is a medication used to treat hypertension (high blood pressure) and chest pain. It’s included on the WHO‘s list of essential medications.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 70 million American adults have high blood pressure. That’s nearly 1 in 3 adult Americans, and that figure does not include children, who can also develop hypertension.
According to Webmd, in addition to genetic factors, the following may contribute to hypertention: tobacco smoking, being overweight, excessive salt consumption, excessive alcohol consumption, stress, and age.
#9. Xanax, Niravam (alprazolam)
Xanax is anti-anxiety medication, intended to treat anxiety, panic disorder, and sometimes insomnia.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., and affect 40 million adults aged 18 and older. That’s roughly 18% of the population, or nearly 1 in 5 American adults. And once again, that doesn’t include children who also suffer from anxiety at an increasing rate.
#8. Lipitor (atorvastatin)
Lipitor is a medicinal treatment for high cholesterol.
According to the CDC, over 102 million Americans aged 20 or older have total cholesterol levels at or above 200 mg/dL (above healthy levels.) More than 35 million of these people have levels of 240 mg/dL or higher, which puts them at a heightened risk for heart disease. Children and teenagers can also suffer from high cholesterol.
To lower cholesterol, the CDC recommends eating low fat and high fiber food, getting 2-3 hours of moderate or vigorous physical activity per week, maintaining a healthy weight, and refraining from smoking.
#7: Glucophage (metformin)
Glucophage is used to treat type 2 diabetes by regulating blood sugar levels.
According to the CDC, over 29 million persons in the U.S. have diabetes, and 1 in 4 do not even know they have it. Another 8 million (about 1 in 3 adult Americans) have prediabetes, which means their blood sugar level is higher than normal.
Up to 30% of those with prediabetes will develop type 2 diabetes in five years, unless they lose weight and engage in moderate physical activity.
#6: Neurontin (gabapentin)
Neuronton is a medication indicated to treat seizures and nerve pain
According to the American Chronic Pain Association (ACPA), over 15 million people in the U.S. and Europe have what is called neuropathic pain, or nerve pain. It is often associated with shingles, and many types of nerve pain are not really preventable. However, many diabetics and long-term alcoholics suffer from nerve pain as well, and in these cases weight loss and abstention from alcohol may help.
#5: Amoxil (amoxicillin)
Amoxil is an antibiotic used to treat infections, such as bronchitis and pneumonia. It’s also on the WHO’s list of essential medications.
According to the CDC, 8.7 million in the past year were diagnosed with chronic bronchitis, which equates to about 3.6% of American adults.
Acute bronchitis may not be preventable, but chronic bronchitis can often be prevented by abstention from smoking. In 2014, 40 million persons (nearly 17% of adults) were current cigarette smokers.
#4. Prinivil, Zestril (lisinopril)
Like Norvasc, Prinivil is used to treat high blood pressure, and also heart conditions such as congestive heart failure.
According to the CDC, around 5.7 million adults in the U.S. have heart failure. Also, one in 9 deaths in 2009 included heart failure as a contributing cause. Many factors contribute to heart failure, including genetics and lifestyle. Hypertension and diabetes, two conditions which are often preventable, are also often major contributing factors.
#3. Delasone, Sterapred (prednisone)
Prednisone is an anti-inflammatory steroid medication often used to treat arthritis, but may also treat some cancer symptoms.
According to Medicinenet, nearly 40 million persons in the United States suffer from arthritis, including over 250,000 children. Arthritis may be caused by (or exacerbated by) injury, infection, or physically demanding occupations.
Each year as many as 12.7 million people discover they have cancer, and another 7.6 million people will die from the disease. According to the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) and World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF), eating a varied and healthy diet, undertaking regular physical activity, maintaining a healthy weight, and limiting alcohol intake could prevent as many as 340,000 cases of cancer in United States per year.
#2: Synthroid, Levoxyl, Unithroid (levothyroxine)
Synthroid is used to treat hypothyroidism. It helps the body produce a hormone used to regulate metabolism. Persons with hypothyroidism can’t produce enough hormones to regulate their body.
According to Thyroid.org, over 12% of the U.S. population will develop a thyroid condition during their lifetime. Also, they estimate that 20 million Americans have some form of thyroid disease. Up to 60% with the disease may be unaware of their condition.
Hypothyroidism is an autoimmune disease. Autoimmune disorders occur when the immune system produces antibodies that attack its own tissues. Sometimes this process involves the thyroid gland.
#1. Vicodin, Norco, Xodol (hydrocodone/acetaminophen)
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for 20 years, you probably know that hydrocodone is used to treat pain. While it is not indicated for use in chronic pain (only acute pain) it is still often prescribed for this purpose.
According to the Institute of Medicine of The National Academies, an incredible 100 million Americans report suffering from chronic pain. That’s about 3 times the number of persons with diabetes.
The causes of chronic pain are limitless – injury, infection, and any number of other conditions, such as cancer. Long-term use of these painkillers can, however, cause dependence and tolerance, leading some to a condition known as hyperalsia (increased sensitivity to pain.) Thus, sometime increasing dosages and stronger pain medications become necessary.
Unquestionably, this pattern had led to millions of Americans addicted to painkilling prescription meds, as well as overdoses.
Are you surprised by any of the prescription meds on this list? Feel free to comment on Facebook!
~ G. Nathalee Serrels, M.A., Psychology