September 26, 2012

Americans Taking More Prescription Drugs Than Ever, Despite Economic Woes

Washington, D.C.Stalled economic growth in the United States has had some effect on prescription drug sales, but, overall, the business is still growing rapidly, according to a recent analysis.

Americans took more prescription drugs than ever last year, with the number of prescriptions increasing from 3.99 billion in 2010 to 4.02 billion in 2011.

That represented a cost increase of $11.3 billion, from $308.6 billion in 2010 to $319.9 billion in 2011, according to the annual profile of top prescription medicines published in the journal ACS Chemical Neuroscience.

For the profile, the journal's editor-in-chief, Craig W. Lindsley, analyzed data released by IMS Health on 2011 prescription drugs in the U.S., with a special focus on medications for central nervous system (CNS) disorders.

"As discussed last year, a combination of generic versus brand medications and a weak economy have negatively impacted prescription drug sales," Lindsley writes. "In parallel, patients continuing on therapies for chronic disease shifted from brand-name medications to generic equivalents; thus, the lists of the top 200 drugs in terms of sales and that of prescriptions dispensed share no overlap."

Lindsley cites Lipitor as an example, In 2010, the statin was number 1 in terms of sales, $7.3 billion, and number 4 in terms of prescriptions dispensed, at around 46 million. In 2011, after patent protection dropped off, Lipitor remained number 1 in terms of sales, $7.7 billion, but dropped off the top 25 most prescribed medicines in 2011. Meanwhile, simvastatin, generic Zocor, increased to number 3, with around 97 million prescriptions dispensed.

The top 10 branded drugs by sales, in order, were Lipitor, Plavix, Nexium, Abilify, Advair Diskus, Seroquel, Singulair, Crestor, Cymbalta, and Humira.

In terms of sales of therapeutic classes, expensive oncology drugs led the pack, followed by, in order, respiratory agents, lipid regulators, antidiabetics, antipsychotics, autoimmune diseases, antidepressants, HIV antivirals, antiulcerants, and narcotic analgesics.

Lindsley noted that Xanax, Celexa, and Zoloft were the most-prescribed psychiatric medicines. While antidepressants continued to be the most-prescribed class of CNS drugs in 2011, he notes, prescriptions for ADHD medicines increased by 17% and multiple sclerosis medications by 22.5% in sales from 2010.

U.S. Pharmacist Social Connect