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The 50 Most Commonly Prescribed Drugs in the United States
Posted by Dr. Julia Tortorice

It may not come as a surprise that the United States is the country that spends the most on prescription drugs by far. How many prescriptions are filed annually in the U.S.? According to the National Library of Medicine, prescription drug use in the United States reached a record high in 2020. 6.3 billion prescriptions, or approximately 19 prescriptions per American, were filed that year. To shed more light on prescription drug use in America, the team at NY Requirements analyzed U.S. drug prescription statistics to create this list of the 50 most prescribed drugs in the United States:

Click here to download the printable PDF version of the chart.

What is the Most Prescribed Drug in the United States?

The most prescribed drug in America is atorvastatin. The most common brand name for atorvastatin is Lipitor. What is atorvastatin used for? Atorvastatin is used to treat high cholesterol, which in turn helps prevent heart disease and symptoms of heart disease such as heart attack and stroke. A doctor may also prescribe atorvastatin to those who have a family history of heart disease or long-term health conditions such as type 1 or type 2 diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis. Atorvastatin is a statin. What is a statin? Statins are a class of medications that are intended to reduce illness and mortality in those at high risk for cardiovascular disease. They are the most commonly prescribed drugs used for lowering cholesterol, which is demonstrated by how many times it appears on this chart!

Heart, Cholesterol, and Blood Pressure

How Is Cholesterol Related to Heart Disease?

High cholesterol may cause blood vessels to build up plaque over time, causing them to narrow. This narrowing can restrict and possibly block the flow of blood from your heart to throughout the body. These blockages can lead to heart disease symptoms such as angina (chest pain), heart attack, and stroke (when blood cannot reach your brain).

What causes high cholesterol?

Both lifestyle and genetics play a role in causing high cholesterol. Here are some high cholesterol risk factors provided by the Cleveland Clinic:

Smoking and tobacco use: Not all cholesterol is bad. Good cholesterol, or high-density lipoproteins, are crucial for keeping the balance of cholesterol in your body healthy. Smoking and tobacco are harmful because it lowers your good cholesterol levels and increases your bad cholesterol levels.

Stress: Too much stress triggers hormonal changes that may cause your body to produce bad cholesterol.

Alcohol: Consuming excessive alcohol may also increase your total cholesterol levels.

Inactivity: Physical activity that gets your blood pumping can improve your overall cholesterol balance. If you have a sedentary lifestyle, your body may not produce enough good cholesterol.

Diet: Some foods may cause your cholesterol levels to raise or lower. Healthcare providers will often recommend dietary changes or a visit to the nutritionist along with medication.

Obesity: Having a body mass index of 30 or greater increases your risk of high cholesterol.

What foods provide good cholesterol?

Here is a wonderful list of eleven foods that can help lower cholesterol from Harvard Medical School, which includes oats, beans, nuts, and fatty fish. Generally speaking, high-fiber, protein-rich foods such as whole grains and seafood can do wonders for your cholesterol balance. Be sure to add plenty of vegetables and fruit as well.

What foods increase bad cholesterol?

The worst foods for cholesterol include red meat, pork, and lamb, which are generally high in saturated fat, fried foods which are dense with excess calories, processed meats which are high in cholesterol and saturated fats, and baked goods which are packed with cholesterol-dense butter and shortening. It is important to note that none of this is medical advice, so please consult your doctor if you have questions or concerns!

Now let’s explore some of the other drug categories that appear on this list of the most common medications in the United States. Cardiovascular medications are the most commonly prescribed drugs. Here are the different types of cardiovascular drugs that appear on this list besides statins, which we addressed above:

What Are Calcium Channel Blockers?

Calcium channel blockers are medications used to lower blood pressure. They block calcium from entering cells. Calcium causes the heart and arteries to squeeze more tightly, so blocking calcium helps them relax and open.

What Are Alpha Blockers?

Alpha blockers are a blood pressure medicine. They work by preventing the hormone norepinephrine from tightening the muscles of the walls of smaller veins and arteries.

What Are Beta Blockers?

Beta blockers prevent the stimulation of the receptors responsible for increased cardiac activity. They help control heart rhythm and lower blood pressure. The most commonly prescribed beta blocker is metoprolol (Lopressor).

What Are Angiotensin Receptor Blockers (ARBs)?

ARBs are used to treat heart failure and high blood pressure, often prescribed following a heart attack. They are also used to treat chronic kidney disease. They work by reducing the action of the hormone angiotensin II. This hormone stimulates salt and water retention in the body and has a powerful constricting effect on blood vessels. Both of these factors increase blood pressure.

What Are Antiplatelet Medications?

Antiplatelet drugs are used to prevent blood clots from forming, which in turn can help prevent heart attack and stroke. Aspirin is the most common antiplatelet drug.

What Are Anticoagulants?

Anticoagulants, also known as blood thinners, also help prevent blood clots.


The most commonly prescribed antidiabetic is Metformin. Metformin works by improving the way your body handles insulin.

What Is Insulin?

Insulin is an essential pancreas-produced hormone that naturally occurs in our bodies. It is responsible for helping the body convert food into energy and managing blood sugar levels. Diabetes disrupts your body’s natural ability to produce enough insulin.

Respiratory and Inflammation

What Are Corticosteroids?

Corticosteroids are artificial drugs that closely resemble cortisol, a hormone naturally produced by our adrenal glands. They work by reducing immune system activity which in turn reduces inflammation. This makes them suitable for treating many different conditions such as auto-immune diseases, allergies and allergic reactions, asthma, and organ rejection.

What Are Bronchodilators?

Bronchodilators are a type of medication that dilates airways and relaxes lung muscles, making it easier to breathe. They are the most common medication for asthma treatment.

What Are Leukotriene Receptor Antagonists (LTRAs)?

Leukotriene receptor antagonists are a relatively new form of asthma and allergy treatment. They block the effect of leukotrienes, a chemical that your body releases when exposed to allergens.

What Are Antihistamines?

Antihistamines block the effects of a substance called histamine, which is usually produced when the body detects something harmful like an infection. This helps reduce the symptoms of conditions like allergies, colds, and influenza.


What Are Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs)?

Proton pump inhibitors reduce the amount of stomach acid produced by the glands in the lining of your stomach. They help relieve the symptoms of chronic acid reflux and stomach ulcers. The most commonly prescribed PPIs include omeprazole, esomeprazole, and pantoprazole.

What Are Xanthine Oxidase Inhibitors (XOIs)?

Xanthine oxidase inhibitors reduce uric acid production by reducing the activity of xanthine oxidase. This makes them suitable for the treatment of gout, a condition when uric acid builds up and crystallizes in joints.

What Are Diuretics? 

Diuretics help reduce fluid and salt buildup in the body by increasing the production of urine. The most common diuretic are thiazides.

Brain and Mood

What Are Anticonvulsants?

Anticonvulsants are used to treat seizures and convulsions by regulating abnormal electrical activity in the brain. They are increasingly being used for the treatment of bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder as they seem to act as mood stabilizers. The most commonly prescribed anticonvulsant is gabapentin.

What Are Antidepressants? 

Antidepressants are used to treat depression and anxiety. They work by boosting the activity of mood-regulating chemicals such as serotonin and noradrenaline. The most commonly prescribed antidepressant is sertraline (Zoloft).

What Are Benzodiazepines?

Benzodiazepines are a type of depressant drug that slows down the activity of your brain and nervous system. This makes them suitable for the treatment of anxiety, muscle spasms, and seizures. The most commonly prescribed “benzo” is alprazolam (Xanax).


What Are Narcotics?

Narcotics are a psychoactive compound with numbing or paralyzing properties. Narcotics attach to the pain receptors of your brain, blocking them from receiving chemical signals. The most commonly prescribed narcotic is hydrocodone (Vicodin).

What Are Muscle Relaxants?

Muscle relaxants reduce pain caused by muscle spasms. They work as central nervous system depressants, preventing your nerves from sending pain signals to your brain. The most commonly prescribed muscle relaxant is cyclobenzaprine (Fexmed).

What Are Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)? 

NSAIDs block your body from producing certain chemicals that contribute to inflammation. The most commonly prescribed NSAID is meloxicam (Mobic).

Here Are the Most Prescribed Drugs in the U.S. 

Drug (Generic and common brand)

Medicine type + Intended For

Total Prescriptions

Total Patients

1. Atorvastatin (Lipitor)




High cholesterol, heart disease prevention



2. Metformin (Glucophage, Fortamet)





High blood sugar levels, Type 2 diabetes treatment (prevents production of glucose in liver)

91,151,043 19,883,763

3. Levothyroxine (Synthroid)




Hypothyroidism, goiters, and thyroid cancers

89,309,050 19,064,382

4. Lisinopril (Zestril, Qbrelis)


ACE inhibitor


High blood pressure and heart failure

88,272,557 20,475,892

5.  Amlodipine (Norvasc)


Calcium channel blocker


Lowers blood pressure by relaxing blood vessels

73,569,606 17,734,288

6. Metoprolol (Lopressor)


Beta blocker


Lowers blood pressure by relaxing blood vessels, treats angina

65,529,551 15,535,072

7. Albuterol (ProAir)



Breathing issues caused by lung diseases such as asthma and COPD

61,469,064 18,070,429

8. Losartan (Cozaar)


Angiotensin receptor blocker


High blood pressure and kidney disease in diabetes patients

55,245,074 13,363,279

9. Omeprazole (Prilosec)


Proton pump inhibitor


Reduces stomach acid production

54,561,969 13,900,115

10. Gabapentin (Gralise)




Seizures and pain caused by nervous system conditions

47,125,973 10,697,239

11. Sertraline (Zoloft)




Depression, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), and other mood/mental disorders

39,206,397 8,478,900

12. Hydrochlorothiazide (Microzide)




Fluid retention and high blood pressure

39,038,822 9,665,980

13. Rosuvastatin (Crestor)




High cholesterol, heart disease risks such as heart attack and stroke

32,632,145 8,006,428

14. Montelukast (Singulair)


Leukotriene receptor antagonists (LTRAs)


Allergies and asthma attacks

30,996,712 7,119,519

15. Escitalopram Lexapro)




Depression and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)

30,505,719 6,499,379

16. Simvastatin (FloLipid)




High cholesterol, heart disease risks such as heart attack and stroke

30,492,289 7,839,909

17. Dextroamphetamine; Amphetamine (Adderall)


CNS Stimulant


Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy



18. Bupropion (Wellbutrin)




Depression, smoking cessation, seasonal affective disorder (SAD)

29,099,445 6,412,363

19. Pantoprazole (Protonix)


Proton-pump inhibitor


Stomach acid production, heartburn, acid reflux, and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)

27,347,488 7,310,342

20. Acetaminophen; Hydrocodone (Vicodin)




Moderate to severe pain, cough

26,599,439 8,616,204

21. Furosemide



Fluid retention and swelling caused by heart, liver, and kidney diseases

26,376,404 6,473,988

22. Trazodone



Major depressive disorders, anxiety, sleeping difficulties

26,310,083 5,322,910

23. Fluticasone (Flovent)



Asthma, allergic rhinitis, emphysema, atopic dermatitis

25,283,015 7,859,173

24. Tamsulosin (Flomax)

Alpha blocker


Enlarged prostate (benign prostatic hyperplasia)

23,540,060 6,474,672

25. Fluoxetine (Prozac)




Depression, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), bulimia nervosa, panic disorders

22,686,838 4,764,311

26. Carvedilol (Coreg)


Beta blocker


High blood pressure and heart failure

21,782,177 5,039,099

27. Duloxetine (Cymbalta)




Depression, anxiety, diabetic peripheral neuropathy, fibromyalgia, and chronic pain

20,012,841 4,444,533

28. Prednisone




Decreases immune system response to reduce inflammation symptoms

19,898,457 8,660,906

29. Insulin Glargine (Lantus Solostar)




Synthetic insulin used to treat type 1 and type 2 diabetes

19,873,255 3,901,230

30. Potassium Chloride


Electrolyte supplement


Treats low potassium levels (hypokalemia)

18,543,551 4,479,822

31. Citalopram (Celexa)





18,444,405 4,126,597

32. Meloxicam (Mobic)

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID)


Arthritis pain, swelling, and stiffness (osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis)

18,226,904 5,819,321

33. Apixaban (Eliquis)




Treat and prevent blood clots, heart attack, stroke

17,933,195 4,021,147

34. Aspirin

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID)


Pain, fever, swelling

17,686,612 5,286,487

35.  Ergocalciferol

(Vitamin D2)


Vitamin D analog


Prevent and treat vitamin D deficiency

17,179,725 5,191,630

36. Ibuprofen (Advil)

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID)


Pain, fever, swelling

17,043,550 8,701,817

37. Clopidogrel (Plavix)

Antiplatelet medication


Blood thinner to prevent stroke, heart attack, and other heart diseases

16,723,608 4,187,295

38. Amoxicillin




Infections and stomach ulcers

16,657,138 13,130,571

39. Pravastatin (Pravachol)



High cholesterol, heart attack and stroke prevention

15,936,065 3,917,270

40. Allopurinol (Aloprim)


Xanthine oxidase inhibitor (XOI)


Uric acid reducer, gout and kidney stones

15,706,780 3,768,723

41. Tramadol (Ultram)



Moderate to severe pain

15,446,495 5,026,719

42. Alprazolam (Xanax)



Anxiety and panic disorders

15,380,320 3,325,555

43. Methylphenidate (Daytrana)

CNS Stimulant


ADHD and narcolepsy

15,282,088 2,440,779

44. Venlafaxine (Effexor)



Depression, anxiety disorders, panic disorders

15,122,966 3,008,776

45. Cyclobenzaprine (Fexmid)


Muscle relaxant


Pain and stiffness caused by muscle spasms

14,426,039 5,107,046

46. Clonazepam (Klonopin)




Panic disorders, epilepsy, seizures, anxiety

14,197,547 2,352,995

47. Atenolol (Tenormin)

Beta blocker


High blood pressure, arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat) and angina (chest pain)

14,107,487 3,384,297

48. Glipizide (Glucotrol)




Stimulates pancreas to produce insulin (for type 2 diabetes treatment)

13,998,178 3,402,458

49. Cetirizine (Zyrtec)




Hay fever, allergy symptoms, hives, itching

13,929,421 4,000,093

50. Lamotrigine (Lamictal)




Epilepsy, seizures, bipolar disorder

13,244,443 1,957,025



Medical Expenditure Panel Survey