Which prescription drugs did Americans—and their insurance companies—spend the most on in 2010? Here are the top 10, according to IMS Health, a health-care information company. No surprise, most were heavily advertised brands for common ailments such as heart burn and high cholesterol. But in many cases, they wouldn’t be our first picks.
1. Pfizer’s Lipitor (for high cholesterol): $7.2 billion
2, AstraZeneca’s Nexium (for heartburn, gastroesophageal reflux, and ulcers): $6.3 billion
3. Bristol-Myers’ Plavix (blood thinner for heart attack and stroke prevention): $6.1 billion
4. GlaxoSmithKline's Advair Diskus (for asthma): $4.7 billion
5. Otsuka's Abilify (for bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and severe depression): $4.6 billion
6. AstraZeneca’s Seroquel (for schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and severe depression): $4.4 billion
7. Merck’s Singulair (for allergies and asthma): $4.1 billion
8. AstraZeneca’s Crestor (for high cholesterol): $3.8 billion
9. Takeda’s Actos (for type 2 diabetes): $3.5 billion
10. Amgen’s Epogen (for people on dialysis with anemia): $3.3 billion
Not surprisingly—since we tend to recommend low-cost generics with long records for effectiveness and safety—we often recommend different drugs.
For example, Lipitor is our Best Buy Drugs recommendation only for people with a history of heart disease or very high cholesterol levels. In most other cases, we say generic lovastatin, pravastatin, or simvastatin is a better bet. Similarly, our Best Buy Drugs recommendation for type 2 diabetes is metformin, not Actos. For heartburn it’s generic omeprazole, not Nexium. And for depression , we have five recommendations—but neither Abilify nor Seroquel make the cut.
Top Line Market Data for U.S. [IMS]