Much medical laboratory testing done in support of cholesterol and cardiovascular management

In many cases, a prescription for a therapeutic drug is the result of a medical laboratory test. Thus, pathologists and clinical laboratory managers might be interested in knowing which drugs topped the 2010 IMS Health Incorporated list for most-prescribed pharmaceuticals.

Topping the list is the combo drug hydrocodone acetaminophen, which is primarily taken to control pain. This blended opiate/analgesic is marketed under various brand names, such as Vicodin, depending on the manufacturer and quantity of the individual drugs.

Hydrocodone/acetaminophen was prescribed 111 million times during 2009. Second on the list is Levothyroxine Sodium, primarily prescribed for thyroid hormone replacement therapy. Doctors prescribed this drug almost 62 million times in 2009.

Of note to pathologists and clinical laboratory managers is the number of prescriptions written for drugs associated with cardiovascular disease and management of cholesterol levels. Third most prescribed drug during 2009 was Lipitor (Atorvastatin). Primarily taken for cardiovascular related illnesses, caregivers prescribed this drug 51.5 million times in 2009.

In fact, four of the top ten most-prescribed drugs were cholesterol or cardiovascular management drugs. These included number 4 Simivastatin (prescribed 46.6 million times), number 5 Lisinopril (35.7 million prescriptions), number 8 Plavix (29.7 million prescriptions, and number 9 Metoprolol tartrate (28.8 million prescriptions).

Most Prescribed Pharmaceuticals
Ranked by total number of prescriptions, 2009
(numbers in thousands)
Rank Prescription Manufacturer 2009 2008 change
1 Hydrocodone/
Acetaminophen
Watson Pharma & Mallinckrodt 111,397 111,501 -0.1%
2 Levothyroxine sodium Mylan Pharmaceuticals & Lannett Co. 61,822 57,119 8.2%
3 Lipitor Pfizer 51,549 58,364 -11.8%
4 Simvastatin Teva Pharmaceuticals & Lupin Pharma 46,461 35,858 29.6%
5 Lisinopril Lupin Pharmaceuticals 35,701 30,878 15.6%
6 Amoxicillin Teva Pharmaceuticals 33,793 35,565 -5.0%
7 Nexium AstraZeneca 30,433 30,762 -1.1%
8 Plavix Bristol-Myers Squibb/Sanofi-Aventis 29,699 28,897 2.8%
9 Metoprololtartrate Mylan Pharmaceuticals 28,846 18,598 55.1%
10 Singulair Merck & Co 28,495 29,005 -1.80%
11 Lexapro Forest Laboratories 27,968 30,097 -7.1%
12 Synthroid Abbott Laboratories 25,974 27,307 -4.9%
13 ProAir HFA/Albuterol Teva Speciality Pharmaceuticals 24,895 16,614 49.8%
14 Amlodipine besylate Mylan Pharmaceuticals 24,037 23,741 1.2%
15 Azithromycin Greenstone 23,854 22,964 3.9%
16 Metformin hydrochloride Teva Pharmaceuticals 22,877 16,645 37.4%
17 Metroprolol succinate Par Pharmaceutical Cos. 21,841 10,420 109.6%
18 Hydrochlorothiazid Teva Pharmaceuticals 21,699 24,583 -11.7%
19 Crestor AstraZeneca 21,646 17,622 22.8%
20 Furosemide Mylan Pharmaceuticals 20,932 21,100 -0.8%
Source: IMS Health Corporation

Another intriguing statistic from the list is the “percentage of change” in physician prescribing behavior from 2008 to 2009. Of the 20 drugs that made the list, those with the highest increase in prescription rates over the previous year were in the bottom-half of the list. They include:

  • 109.6% change!: Metoprolol succinate, treats high blood pressure (21.6 million prescriptions)
  • 55.1% change: Metoprolol tartrate, for hypertension and other cardiovascular diseases (28.8 million prescriptions)
  • 49.8% change: Albuterol (ProAir HFA), for chronic lung and pulmonary diseases (24.8 million prescriptions)
  • 37.4% change: Metformin hydrocholoride, for treating type II diabetes (22.9 million prescriptions

This list of the top 20 most-prescribed drugs during 2009 demonstrate how growing demand for a specific therapeutic drug can significantly increase utilization of the clinical laboratory tests associated with the diagnoses of the diseases or health conditions treated by those prescription drugs.

Clinical laboratory managers and pathologists can use this list of the top 20 most-prescribed drugs as a starting point to identify opportunities to help physicians improve their ability to diagnose the conditions that are associated with use of these therapeutic drugs.


Related Information:

Most Prescribed Pharmaceuticals, as presented in Modern Healthcare Magazine, published on August 16, 2010

Pill Identification: Hydrocodone Pill Imprints

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