Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Wisdom Wednesday: Best Selling, Most Prescribed Branded Drugs

Through June of this year, the cholesterol-lowing drug rosuvastatin (Crestor, AstraZeneca) was the most prescribed branded drug in the United States, and the arthritis drug adalimumab (Humira, Abbott Laboratories) was the best-selling branded drug, according to the latest data from the research firm IMS Health.

Rosuvastatin had about 21 million prescriptions, followed by asthma medication fluticasone propionate/salmeterol (Advair Diskus, GlaxoSmithKline), at about 13.6 million prescriptions; the proton pump inhibitor esomeprazole (Nexium, AstraZeneca), at about 13.2 million prescriptions, the insulin glargine injection Lantus Solostar (sanofiaventis), at about 11.2 million, and the attention-deficit drug lisdexamfetamine dimesylate (Vyvanse, Shire), at about 10.6 million.

Rounding out the top 10 most prescribed drugs for the period (in order) were the antiepileptic drug pregabalin (Lyrica, Pfizer), the chronic obstructive pulmonary disease medication tiotropium bromide (Spiriva Handihaler, Boehringer ingelheim Pharmaceuticals), the diabetes drug sitagliptin (Januvia, Merck), the asthma/chronic obstructive pulmonary disease drug budesonide/formoteral (Symbicort, AstraZeneca), and the antipsychotic medication aripiprazole (Abilify, Otsuka Pharmaceutical).

The top seller, arthritis drug adalimumab (Humira, Abbott Laboratories), had sales of about $8.6 billion, followed by the antipsychotic Abilify, at $7.2 billion; the arthritis drug etanercept (Enbrel, Amgen), at roughly $6.1 billion; the cholesterol drug Crestor, at just under $6.1 billion; and the insulin glargine ingection Lantus Solostar (sanofi-aventis), at around $5 billion.

The remaining top 10 drugs in sales were the hepatitis C drug Sovaldi, at $4.9 billion; the asthma drug Advair Diskus, at $4.8 billion; the proton pump inhibitor Nexium, at $4.7 billion; the diabetes drug Januvia, at %3.8 billion; and the antiepileptic Lyrica, at $3.4 billion.

My Take:
Wow, spell check went crazy on this blog. Did you ever wonder why drug companies create brand names using the letters “Z”, “V” and “Y” constantly? I’ve got no answer for that.

If you ever doubted that Big Pharm is big money, just remember these figures represent 6 months of sales, just half of the year. The most frequently written scripts are not always the biggest money makers, but it sure helps. Crestor, the most commonly prescribed drug in America was 4th in sales. Humira, the number one money maker, actually ranks way down at number 31 in prescription frequency. It’s just a really expensive drug. I attribute the financial success of this drug to their slick advertising campaign with Phil Mickelson. As a biologic (an inhibitor of the immune system) it has very serious side effects. Just listen closely to the ads. Despite all the warnings attached to this drug, patients are flocking to their physicians asking for humira.

These two lists are based on brand names, not on the mode of action or nature of the disease. Although Crestor is the most commonly written prescription in the U.S., zetia (another cholesterol lowering drug is #15 and Lipitor (another statin) is #49. So the myth that lowering cholesterol reduces the risk of heart attack, has elevated three drugs into the top 100 prescriptions written today, including the number one spot.

Premarin (pregnant horse mare urine) is quite high on the list at #23, despite the fact that it is a known carcinogen and that several safer forms of HRT (hormone replacement therapy) are readily available.

The Bottom Line:
No other country in the world spends money on drugs the way we do in the U.S. Other countries prescribe much less often and refuse to pay the outrageous prices that are charged here in America. Drug companies make billions of dollars on individual drugs only because we allow it.

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