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25 Most Prescribed Medication in the World

In this article, we will be taking a look at the 25 most prescribed medication in the world. To skip our detailed analysis, you can go directly to see the 10 most prescribed medication in the world.

The advancements that the medical field has accomplished over the past century, and especially in recent decades, has exponentially raised our standard of living. Not only are people living longer, with the World Economic Forum stating 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 living has improved dramatically too, with new innovations being implemented every year. Whether it's the Covid-19 vaccine that Pfizer Inc. (NYSE:PFE) and Moderna, Inc. (NASDAQ:MRNA), which are also among the biggest pharmaceutical companies in the world, have come up with in record time to potentially save tens of millions of lives and reduce the burden on the global health structure, to companies such as Gilead Sciences, Inc. (NASDAQ:GILD) and ViiV (a majority-owned company by GlaxoSmithKline plc (NYSE:GSK)), which have dramatically improved the lives of people living with HIV and people susceptible to HIV, medication's importance cannot be understated.

In most developed countries healthcare is free. Taxes and deductions from everyone's earnings ensure a social, universal healthcare system which allows everyone to afford the treatment. Furthermore, in most European, and other countries, drug prices are regulated by governments to make sure that they remain affordable for the general masses and maintain a balance between profits for the company and affordable healthcare for residents. The one major exception is, as you've probably guessed, the United States of America.

25 most prescribed medication in the world
25 most prescribed medication in the world

Photo by Myriam Zilles on Unsplash

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Even though the United States is the biggest economy in the world, and has been for around a century now, healthcare has still remained mostly in private hands. While that has allowed businesses and R&D to flourish as costs have been recouped through higher drug prices, this has had the consequence of making many types of medication unaffordable for people who desperately need it to survive. Most people are only afforded healthcare insurance through their employer, which means that if a person becomes unemployed, not only do they lose out on their income, healthcare becomes almost impossible to afford as well. Since there is no governmental oversight, prices for drugs can be increased massively, with RAND Corporation stating that prescription drug prices in the country are 2.56 times than those of 32 other countries. If the focus is only on brand prices, the discrepancy rises even further, with U.S. prices being 3.44 times higher than in other nations. According to a senior healthy policy research at RAND, Andrew Mulcahy: "Brand-name drugs are the primary driver of the higher prescription drug prices in the United States. We found consistently high U.S. brand name prices regardless of our methodological decisions.” The only relatively positive fact for the U.S. is that generic drug prices are actually just 84% of those in other countries. The same study also found out that France, Italy and the United Kingdom had the lowest drug prices among G7 nations while Canada, Germany and Japan have the highest prices.

One recent, glaring example is the price of insulin manufactured by pharma giant Eli Lilly and Company (NYSE:LLY). The last two decades saw a 300% increase in the price of insulin, which led to many people in the U.S. being forced to hoard rations, even if they have insurance. Recently, after significant pressure and public discourse, Eli Lilly and Company (NYSE:LLY) announced a 70% reduction in price and capping patient out-of-pocket expenses at $35 a month. One of the primary reasons behind this decision was President Biden's announcement in January 2023 that insulin would be capped at $35 per month for seniors on Medicare. While the announcement has been welcomed almost universally, others have raised the practice of price-gouging, citing the fact that Eli Lilly and Company (NYSE:LLY) could reduce prices by 70% and still turn a profit.

To determine the most prescribed medication, we headed over to ClinCalc, which uses data provided by the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey for each year, and finds out the total prescriptions and total patients for a drug in a given year. There can be some variance in the two; for example, an HIV drug which has to be taken every single day will have more prescriptions than a drug which has to be taken once a month. Therefore, we have taken the average of both to come up with our ranking. So, let's now take a look at the drugs being consumed the most across the world, starting with:

25. Meloxicam

Total prescriptions: 19,808,581

Meloxicam is an anti-inflammatory medicine that is administered either orally or intravenously. It is generally used for pain treatment in rheumatic diseases and osteoarthritis.

24. Tamsulosin

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 pass kidney stones.

23. Trazodone

Total prescriptions: 26,210,731

Trazodone is an antidepressant sold under several brand names.

22. Prednisone

Total prescriptions: 19,044,926

Prednisone is used for the replacement of steroids which are normally produced by the body. It suppresses the immune system and decreases inflammation in various conditions.

21. Bupropion

Total prescriptions: 28,889,368

One of several antidepressant medications among the most prescribed medication in the world, Bupropion is sold under the brand name Wellbutrin, manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline plc (NYSE:GSK).

20. Pantoprazole

Total prescriptions: 26,604,040

Pantoprazole is a proton pump inhibitor used in the treatment of stomach ulcers, by reducing the amount of acid the stomach makes.

19. Furosemide

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 in peeing when the patient's kidneys are not working properly.

18. Fluticasone

Total prescriptions: 24,777,490

Fluticasone is a steroids medication used in the form of nasal spray and drops, and is used for the treatment of nasal symptom. Some of its popular brand names include Flixonase and Avamys, both of which are manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline plc (NYSE:GSK).

17. Escitalopram

Total prescriptions: 30,605,646

Escitalopram is used to treat anxiety as well as depression, and in a world where mental health is finally being given more importance than it received historically, it should come as no surprise that such medication is among the most prescribed drugs in the world.

16. Rosuvastatin

Total prescriptions: 30,605,646

Rosuvastatin is a high cholesterol treatment medication and is sold under the brand name Crestor in addition to various other brand names.

15. Montelukast

Total prescriptions: 29,750,488

Montelukast is a drug used to fight against asthma, and is perhaps best known under the brand name Singulair, manufactured by Merck & Co., Inc. (NYSE:MRK).

14. Acetaminophen; Hydrocodone

Total prescriptions: 30,100,356

Acetaminophen is also known as paracetamol, even more well-known by 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 headache and slight reduction in fever, even though ibuprofen has been proven to be more effective in this respect. Meanwhile, hydrocodone is an opioid. Together, a combination of these two drugs is used for the treatment of moderate to severe pain in patients.

13. Sertraline

Total prescriptions: 38,219,814

You might not have heard of Sertraline, even though it is one of the most prescribed drugs in the world, but you will definitely have heard of Zoloft, perhaps the most consumed antidepressant brand named drug, which is manufactured by Pfizer Inc. (NYSE:PFE).

12. Simvastatin

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).

11. Hydrochlorothiazide

Total prescriptions: 41,476,098

One of the oldest drugs still heavily in use, Hydrochlorothiazide has been around for over half a century and is a diuretic which is used to treat hypertension and swelling as a result of fluid build-up.

Click to continue reading and see the 10 most prescribed medication in the world. Suggested articles:

Disclosure: None. 25 most prescribed medication in the world is originally published at Insider Monkey.