The Most Prescribed Drugs in the U.S.

By Sherry Baker @SherryNewsViews
August 19, 2020

Nearly half of the U.S. population took at least one prescription drug over the past month. The most prescribed medications are used for a wide range of conditions.

If you’ve ever waited what seemed like a crazy long time to have a prescription filled by a pharmacist, you’re not alone. In-person and online prescription drug pharmacies are often super busy. No wonder. They are tasked with providing an enormous amount of prescription medications to Americans.

The statistics tell the story: More than 4.38 billion prescriptions were filled in the U.S. in 2019. There’s no reason to think that number is declining.

About half of people in the U.S. take a prescription drug over the course of the month, according to statistics from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. What’s more, about 42 percent of American adults 65 or older take five or more medications regularly, research from the Lown Institute found.


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The most prescribed prescription drugs based on age

To understand the most prescribed drugs in the U.S, take a look at the types of prescribed medications most commonly used by age group, according to the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics:

  • Lipid-lowering drugs — adults age 60 years and older with too high cholesterol (46.3 percent).
  • Antidepressants — adults age 20 to 59 years (11.4 percent).
  • Central nervous system stimulants for attention deficit disorder (ADD) and related conditions — adolescents (6.2 percent).
  • Bronchodilators — children up to age 11 who have asthma or other breathing problems (4.3 percent).

The 20 most prescribed drugs in the U.S.

Based on drug statistics from the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS), here are the most prescribed drugs in the U.S., starting with the medications that have the highest number of filled prescriptions:

  1. Lisinopril (Prinivil, Zestril) is an ACE (angiotensin converting enzyme) inhibitor that treats high blood pressure and congestive heart failure.
  2. Atorvastatin (Lipitor) is a statin prescribed to lower LDL-C ("bad" cholesterol) and triglycerides in your blood; it can raise HDL-C ("good" cholesterol), as well.
  3. Levothyroxine (Synthroid) is a thyroid hormone replacement that treats low thyroid disease(hypothyroidism).
  4. Metformin Hydrochloride (Glucophage) is an oral diabetes medicine used to help control blood sugar levels.
  5. Amlodipine (Norvasc) is a calcium channel blocker; it’s prescribed to lower high blood pressure and to treat angina (chest pain), too.
  6. Metoprolol (Lopressor) is a beta-blocker used to treat high blood pressure.
  7. Omeprazole (Prilosec) is a proton pump inhibitor (PPI) sold over-the-counter but is often prescribed in higher dosages to treat ulcers and severe cases of GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease). It is often combined with the prescription antibiotic clarithromycin for 14 days to treat ulcers.
  8. Simvastatin (Zocor) is a statin that lowers high cholesterol levels.
  9. Losartan Potassium (Cozaar) is used to lower high blood pressure.
  10. Albuterol (Proventil HFA, Ventolin HFA, Proair HFA, and other brands) is a bronchodilator that treats asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
  11. Gabapentin (Neurontin, Gralise, Neuraptine, and other brands) is prescribed to prevent and control seizures; it also is used to relieve nerve pain.
  12. Hydrochlorothiazide (Microzide) is a diuretic that can help lower blood pressure and reduce extra fluid in the body (edema) caused by heart failure, liver disease, or kidney disease.
  13. Acetaminophen and hydrocodone bitartrate (Norco) are combined to create a potent pain reliever. The opioid (hydrocodone) has increased pain relieving impact when combined with the less potent pain reliever acetaminophen.
  14. Sertraline Hydrochloride (Zoloft) is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) prescribed for panic disorder, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), and social anxiety disorder.
  15. Fluticasone (Ticaspray, Flonase, and other brands) is a nasal spray containing a corticosteroid used for both nasal- and eye-related allergy symptoms. Although now available as an over-the-counter medication, as well as a prescription generic version (fluticasone propionate) of the same strength, the prescription version remains widely used because it can be billed to insurance for reimbursement.
  16. Montelukast (Singulair) is a leukotriene receptor antagonist drug used in the treatment of asthma and allergic rhinitis. Leukotrienes are chemicals released by your body when you breathe in an allergen and, in some people, the leukotrienes cause swelling in lungs and airways, resulting in asthma, which montelukast can relieve.
  17. Furosemide (Lasix) is a diuretic used to treat fluid retention caused by congestive heart failure, liver disease, kidney disease, and other medical conditions.
  18. Amoxicillin is an antibiotic used for short-term treatment of certain bacterial infections.
  19. Pantoprazole sodium (Protonix) is a PPI used to treat the symptoms of esophagitis caused by stomach acid due to GERD, Zollinger-Ellison syndrome. or other conditions causing excess stomach acid.
  20. Escitalopram (Lexapro) is a SSRI prescribed for depression and anxiety.


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August 19, 2020

Reviewed By:  

Janet O’Dell, RN