Prescription drugs can be found in almost every household in the United States. Many prescriptions are taken daily for chronic health problems such as high blood pressure or diabetes. According to a survey from Consumer Reports National Research Center, 55% of Americans take prescription medications and have an average of four separate prescriptions. Amid the prescription culture that is so prevalent in the United States, researchers compiled the most common drugs that people utilize.
Top 20 Prescription Drugs
With over 5.8 billion prescriptions dispensed in 2018, the examination of the individual medications sheds light on the health crisis in the United States. The following prescription medications are the most popular prescriptions, according to ClinCalc, using data compiled from medical expenditure panel surveys (MEPS) conducted by the United States government. The top 20 medications are:
- Levothyroxine: Used to treat hypothyroidism
- Lisinopril: Lowers high blood pressure
- Atorvastatin: Lowers high cholesterol
- Metformin Hydrochloride: Used to treat diabetes
- Amlodipine Besylate: Lowers high blood pressure
- Metoprolol: Lowers high blood pressure
- Omeprazole: Used to treat gastric reflux
- Simvastatin: Lowers high cholesterol
- Losartan Potassium: Lowers high blood pressure
- Albuterol: Bronchodilator
- Gabapentin: Used to treat neuropathy and seizures
- Hydrochlorothiazide: Diuretic used to treat high blood pressure
- Acetaminophen; Hydrocodone Bitartrate: Opioid used for pain management
- Sertraline Hydrochloride: Antidepressant
- Furosemide: Diuretic used to treat high blood pressure
- Fluticasone: Corticosteroid
- Acetaminophen: Used to treat pain
- Amoxicillin: Antibiotic
- Alprazolam: Used to treat anxiety
- Atenolol: Used to treat high blood pressure
Side Effects and Polypharmacy
While most prescribed medications, especially those noted in the top 20 list, are often deemed necessary to treat diseases, some may find that they are taking too many drugs (polypharmacy), or are taking drugs that aren’t needed. The chances of this development happening are higher when someone has more than one healthcare provider prescribing drugs for different health problems. This situation can lead to dangerous interactions between prescriptions that could cause serious side effects. To minimize the risk of harmful interactions, update each physician with a current list of prescriptions and ask if there are any negative interactions when receiving a new prescription.
Certain diseases can be caught early on, such as high blood pressure or diabetes, and be treated. Some physicians have gotten into the habit of prescribing medication at these early stages. In this case, some patients may ask for alternative options and have successfully avoided the negative side effects of prescription medications. It is important to discuss with a physician any desire to stop taking a medication before doing so.
In 2017, the CDC reported that over 56 million people filled a prescription for an opioid. In 2016 over 63,000 deaths resulted from drug overdoses; 66.4% of those fatalities included illicit or prescription opioids. Officially considered a national epidemic, the U.S. Department of Health declared the opioid crisis a nationwide public health emergency in 2017. Considering the risks of opioid use — dependency, addiction, overdose, and death — it’s clear to healthcare providers and government officials that there is a need for medical alternatives and recovery services.
To address that concern, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has a five-point strategy that focuses on:
- Improving access to prevention, treatment and recovery services
- Promoting the use and access to overdose-reversing drugs
- Supporting public health surveillance to strengthen opioid understanding
- Supporting research on pain and addiction
- Advancing better practices for pain management
What Can You Do?
If you are concerned about the amount of prescribed medications you are taking or the side effects of those medications, speak with your doctor about the possibility of adjusting your regimen. It is not recommended to adjust your prescriptions on your own without the oversight of a trained professional. If you are taking opioids for pain management, reach out to your healthcare provider for alternative options to help manage your pain.
If you or someone you know is struggling with an addiction to prescription drugs, contact The Recovery Village. Call to speak with a representative who can discuss how addiction treatment can help you or your loved one.
Carr, Teresa. “Too Many Meds? America’s Love Affair With Prescription Medication.” Consumer Reports, August 3, 2017. Accessed June 27, 2019. IQVIA. “Medicine Use and Spending in the U.S.” May 9, 2019. Accessed June 27, 2019. ClinCalc. “The Top 200 of 2019.” February 11, 2017. Accessed June 27, 2019. Hoots, Brooke; Seth, Puja. “2018 Annual Surveillance Report of Drug-Related Risks and Outcomes–United States.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, August 31, 2018. Accessed June 27, 2019. U.S. Public Health Service. “Facing Addiction in America: The Surgeon General’s Spotlight on Opioids.” September 2018. Accessed June 27, 2019.
Carr, Teresa. “Too Many Meds? America’s Love Affair With Prescription Medication.” Consumer Reports, August 3, 2017. Accessed June 27, 2019.
IQVIA. “Medicine Use and Spending in the U.S.” May 9, 2019. Accessed June 27, 2019.
ClinCalc. “The Top 200 of 2019.” February 11, 2017. Accessed June 27, 2019.
Hoots, Brooke; Seth, Puja. “2018 Annual Surveillance Report of Drug-Related Risks and Outcomes–United States.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, August 31, 2018. Accessed June 27, 2019.
U.S. Public Health Service. “Facing Addiction in America: The Surgeon General’s Spotlight on Opioids.” September 2018. Accessed June 27, 2019.