America Is More Medicated Than Ever

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Photo: Daniel Goodman / Business Insider

Americans popped more pills than ever last year.Total number of prescriptions in the U.S. increased to 4.02 billion (at a cost of $319.9 billion) in 2011 from 3.99 billion (at a cost of $308.6 billion) in 2010, according to a new report in the journal ACS Chemical Neuroscience (h/t Tim Mak).

The journal’s editor in chief Craig Lindsley says the data paint a grim portrait. 

When one looks at the trends and medications, the United States is suffering from poor lifestyle/diet choices (based on sales of lipid regulators and antidiabetic medications) and an unprecedented increase in patients taking antidepressants and antipsychotics. Importantly, increases in both sales and prescriptions dispensed are positive signs for a struggling pharmaceutical industry.

Lindsley adds the numbers could have been ever higher.

But a combination of generic versus brand medications and a weak economy hurt prescriptions, and patients continuing on therapies for chronic disease shifted from brand name medications to generic equivalents.

The report ranked the top 10 drugs, top 10 therapeutic classes, and top 10 pharmaceutical companies.

Top Pharmaceutical Products by Sales

For at least the second year, Lipitor, a drug used to reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke, remained number 1 in terms of sales ($7.7 billion) in 2011, but with its patent expiring it dropped off the top 25 most prescribed medicines in 2011, Lindsley says. Meanwhile simvastatin, generic Zocor, increased to number 3, with 97 million prescriptions dispensed.

Source: ACS Chemical Neuroscience

Top Therapeutic Classes by U.S. Sales

Approximately one-third of the $319.9 billion spent on prescription drugs was focused on five therapeutic areas: oncology, respiratory agents, lipid regulators, antidiabetics and antipsychotics, Lindsley writes. Despite a growing trend of big pharma leaving psychiatric and neurological drug discovery, antipsychotics continue to grow, with $18.2 billion in sales in 2011, up $2.1 billion from 2010.

Source: ACS Chemical Neuroscience

Top Psychiatric Medicines Prescribed in 2011

Antidepressants were the most prescribed class of drugs. ADHD therapy sales increased 17% to $7.9 billion in sales, while treatments for multiple sclerosis grew 22.5% to $7.1 billion.

Source: ACS Chemical Neuroscience

Top Pharmaceutical Companies Based on U.S. Prescription Drug Sales

For at least the second year in a row, Pfizer proved a world beater. Amgen and Teva rose in the rankings.

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