The Most Prescribed Drugs in the U.S.

By Sherry Baker and Temma Ehrenfeld @SherryNewsViews
December 19, 2023
The Most Prescribed Drugs in the U.S.

Nearly two-thirds of American adults take at least one prescription drug. Many take more. The most popular medications are used for a wide range of conditions.

Most people would rather not rely on medication, if they can avoid it.

But that idea may seem old-fashioned in a country in which about 60 percent of adults say they take at least one prescription drug, in surveys reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). More than a third say they take three or more drugs.


YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE: Health Conditions Most Affected by High Drug Prices


Statins, which lower cholesterol, lead the way. In earlier data, the CDC reported that nearly half of U.S. adults aged 60 and up take a lipid-lowering drug. More than 11 percent in the 20 to 59 age group take an antidepressant. Those numbers have likely increased.

Prescription overload and skipping medications

Among U.S. seniors, prescription overload has become dangerous. Nearly one in five take more than 10 prescriptions, and every day thousands of them land in the hospital because of medication side effects, according to a report from the Lown Institute, a healthcare think tank. Combining drugs increases the chance of a bad reaction, which can be fatal.

Another wrinkle is that significant numbers of Americans can’t afford their prescriptions, especially if they are disabled, and end up skipping doses or cutting back.

Ideally people would receive and follow advice that lowers their need for medication and have the money to follow their doctor’s plans.

The most prescribed drugs in the U.S.

Data from pharmacies compiled by GoodRx, the discount drug website, tracks which drugs are used the most.

  • Atorvastatin (Lipitor) is a statin that can lower LDL-C ("bad" cholesterol) and triglycerides in your blood. It can raise HDL-C ("good" cholesterol), as well.
  • Lisinopril (Prinivil, Zestril) is an ACE (angiotensin converting enzyme) inhibitor that treats high blood pressure and heart failure.
  • Albuterol (Accuneb, Ventolin) relaxes muscles in your lungs to treat and prevent asthma attacks.
  • Levothyroxine (Synthroid) is a thyroid hormone replacement that treats low thyroid disease (hypothyroidism).
  • Amlodipine (Norvasc) is a calcium channel blocker. It’s prescribed to lower high blood pressure and treat angina (chest pain).
  • Gabapentin (Neurontin, Gralise, Neuraptine, and other brands) is prescribed to prevent and control seizures. It can also relieve nerve pain.
  • Omeprazole (Prilosec) is a proton pump inhibitor (PPI) sold over the counter. It’s 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.
  • Metformin Hydrochloride (Glucophage) is an oral type 2 diabetes medicine that can help control blood sugar levels.
  • Losartan Potassium (Cozaar) can lower high blood pressure.
  • Hydrocodone/Acetaminophen (Zolvit, Vicodin) treats moderate to severe pain.

Other popular drugs

  • Metoprolol (Lopressor) is a beta-blocker that treats high blood pressure.
  • Simvastatin (Zocor) is a statin that lowers high cholesterol levels.
  • Hydrochlorothiazide (Microzide) is a diuretic that can help lower blood pressure and reduce extra fluid in your body (edema) caused by heart failure, liver disease, or kidney disease.
  • Sertraline Hydrochloride (Zoloft) is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) prescribed for panic disorder, depression, obessessive-compulsive disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder, premenstrual dysphoric disorder, and social anxiety disorder.
  • Fluticasone (Ticaspray, Flonase, and other brands) is a nasal spray containing a corticosteroid for both nasal- and eye-related allergy symptoms. Although it’s available over the counter and as a prescription generic (fluticasone propionate), the prescription version remains widely used because insurance often covers part of the cost.
  • Montelukast (Singulair) is a leukotriene receptor antagonist drug that treats asthma and allergic rhinitis. Leukotrienes are chemicals your body releases when you breathe in an allergen. In some people, leukotrienes cause swelling in their lungs and airways, resulting in asthma, which montelukast can relieve.
  • Furosemide (Lasix) is a diuretic that treats fluid retention caused by heart failure, liver disease, kidney disease, and other conditions.
  • Amoxicillin is an antibiotic used for short-term treatment of certain bacterial infections.
  • Pantoprazole sodium (Protonix) is a PPI that treats symptoms of esophagitis caused by stomach acid due to GERD, Zollinger-Ellison syndrome, or other conditions causing excess stomach acid.
  • Escitalopram (Lexapro) is a SSRI prescribed for depression and anxiety.


YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE OUR: Prescription Drug Prices section


December 19, 2023

Reviewed By:  

Janet O’Dell, RN