In this article, we’ll take a look at the 25 most prescribed drugs in the world. To skip our detailed analysis, you can go directly to see the The 10 most prescribed drugs in the world.
The advances made by the medical field in the last century, and especially in the last few decades, have exponentially raised our standard of living. Not only are people living longer, with the affirmation of the World Economic Forum that life expectancy at birth for both sexes has increased from 46.5 years in 1950 to 71.7 years in 2022, but the quality of life has also improved markedly, with new innovations being implemented every year. Whether it’s the Covid-19 vaccine that Pfizer Inc. (NYSE:PFE) and Moderna, Inc. (NASDAQ:MRNA), also among the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies, have devised in record time to save potentially tens of millions of lives and reduce the burden on the global healthcare facility, to companies such as Gilead Sciences, Inc. (NASDAQ:GILD) and ViiV (a majority-owned company of GlaxoSmithKline plc (NYSE:GSK)), which have vastly improved In the lives of people living with HIV and people susceptible to HIV, the importance of medication cannot be underestimated.
In most developed countries, healthcare is free. Taxes and deductions on everyone’s earnings guarantee a social and universal health system that allows everyone to afford health care. Also, in most European and other countries, drug prices are regulated by governments to make sure they remain affordable for the general masses and maintain a balance between profits for the company and affordable healthcare for the residents. The one major exception is, as you probably guessed, the United States of America.
Photo by Myriam Zilles on Unsplash
Although the United States is the largest economy in the world, and has been for nearly a century, health care has remained largely in private hands. While this has allowed business and R&D to thrive as costs have been recouped through rising drug prices, this has had the consequence of making many types of drugs inaccessible to people who desperately need them to to survive. Most people are only afforded health insurance through their employer, which means that if a person becomes unemployed, they not only lose their income, but health care also becomes nearly impossible to afford. Since there is no government oversight, drug prices can be raised massively, with RAND Corporation stating that prescription drug prices in the country are 2.56 times higher than in 32 other countries. If the focus is on brand prices alone, the discrepancy widens further, with US prices 3.44 times higher than those of other nations. According to a senior sound policy researcher at RAND, Andrew Mulcahy: “Brand name drugs are the primary driver of rising prescription drug prices in the United States. We have seen consistently high US brand-name prices, regardless of our methodological decisions. The one relatively positive fact for the US is that generic drug prices are actually only 84% of those in other countries. The same study also found that France, Italy and the UK had the lowest drug prices among the G7 nations, while Canada, Germany and Japan had the highest prices.
A recent and glaring example is the price of insulin manufactured by pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly and Company (NYSE:LLY). The last two decades have seen a 300% increase in the price of insulin, resulting in many people in the United States being forced to stockpile rations, even if they have insurance. Recently, after significant lobbying and public speaking, Eli Lilly and Company (NYSE:LLY) announced a 70% price reduction and a cap on patient out-of-pocket expenses to $35 per month. One of the main reasons behind this decision was President Biden’s announcement in January 2023 that insulin would be capped at $35 a month for seniors with Medicare. While the announcement was almost universally welcomed, others brought up the practice of price gouging, citing the fact that Eli Lilly and Company (NYSE:LLY) could cut prices by 70% and still make a profit.
To determine the most prescribed drug, we turned to ClinCalc, which uses data provided by the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey for each year to find out the total prescriptions and total patients for a drug in a given year. There may be some variation in the two; for example, an HIV drug that needs to be taken every single day will have more prescriptions than a drug that needs to be taken once a month. Therefore, we took the average of both to come up with our ranking. So, let’s now take a look at the most consumed drugs around the world, starting with:
Total Prescriptions: 19,808,581
Meloxicam is an anti-inflammatory medicine that is administered orally or intravenously. It is generally used for the treatment of pain in rheumatic diseases and osteoarthritis.
Total Prescriptions: 24,692,402
Tamsulosin is used to treat symptoms of a large prostate and is sold under various brand names. Generally sold under the brand name Flomax, it is also often used to help a patient overcome kidney stones.
Total Prescriptions: 26,210,731
Trazodone is an antidepressant sold under several brand names.
Total Prescriptions: 19,044,926
Prednisone is used to replace the steroids normally made by the body. It suppresses the immune system and decreases inflammation in various conditions.
Total Prescriptions: 28,889,368
One of several antidepressant drugs among the most prescribed drugs in the world, bupropion is sold under the brand name Wellbutrin, manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline plc (NYSE: GSK).
Total Prescriptions: 26,604,040
Pantoprazole is a proton pump inhibitor used to treat stomach ulcers by reducing the amount of acid produced by the stomach.
Total Prescriptions: 26,786,296
Furosemide is a diuretic and is used in the treatment of high blood pressure and heart conditions. It can also help pee when the patient’s kidneys aren’t working properly.
Total Prescriptions: 24,777,490
Fluticasone is a steroid drug used in the form of a nasal spray and drops and is used for the treatment of nasal symptoms. Some of its popular brands include Flixonase and Avamys, both of which are manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline plc (NYSE: GSK).
Total Prescriptions: 30,605,646
Escitalopram is used to treat anxiety and depression, and in a world where mental health is finally being given more prominence than it has historically received, it should come as no surprise that the drug is among the most prescribed drugs in the world.
Total Prescriptions: 30,605,646
Rosuvastatin is a drug for the treatment of high cholesterol and is sold under the brand name Crestor in addition to various other brand names.
Total Prescriptions: 29,750,488
Montelukast is a drug used to treat asthma, and is perhaps best known under the brand name Singulair, manufactured by Merck & Co., Inc. (NYSE:MRK).
14. Paracetamol; Hydrocodone
Total Prescriptions: 30,100,356
Acetaminophen is also known as paracetamol, better known under the brand names Tylenol and Panadol, manufactured by Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ) and Haleon plc (NYSE:HLN), respectively. It is generally used for the treatment of light pain such as headaches and mild fever reduction, although ibuprofen has been shown to be more effective in this regard. Meanwhile, hydrocodone is an opioid. Together, a combination of these two drugs is used to treat moderate to severe pain in patients.
Total Prescriptions: 38,219,814
You may not have heard of sertraline, even though it is one of the most prescribed drugs in the world, but you have surely heard of Zoloft, perhaps the most widely used antidepressant drug, manufactured by Pfizer Inc. (NYSE: PFE).
Total Prescriptions: 36,600,871
Simvastatin, used to treat high cholesterol, is sold under the brand name Zocor, manufactured by Merck & Co., Inc. (NYSE:MRK).
Total Prescriptions: 41,476,098
One of the oldest drugs still in wide use, hydrochlorothiazide has been around for over half a century and is a diuretic used to treat high blood pressure and bloating due to fluid buildup.
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Disclosure: None. 25 Most Prescribed Drugs in the World is originally published in Insider Monkey.
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