April 20, 2011 — The 10 most prescribed drugs in the U.S. aren’t the drugs on which we spend the most, according to a report from the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics.
Out of the $307 billion we spent on drugs in 2010, we spent most of our money on the following:
Lipitor, a cholesterol-lowering statin drug — $7.2 billion
Nexium, an antacid drug — $6.3 billion
Plavix, a blood thinner — $6.1 billion
Advair Diskus, an asthma inhaler — $4.7 billion
Abilify, an antipsychotic drug — $4.6 billion
Seroquel, an antipsychotic drug — $4.4 billion
Singulair, an oral asthma drug — $4.1 billion
Crestor, a cholesterol-lowering statin drug — $3.8 billion
Actos, a diabetes drug — $3.5 billion
Epogen, an injectable anemia drug — $3.3 billion
What struck me was that with the exception of Epogen and (for certain indications) Plavix, every single one of those drugs is a variant on an older, now generic drug, which works for all intents and purposes just as well.
Crestor? Really? Nexium? Actos?
If you wanted to shave a quick $20 billion off the government’s healthcare costs, you could just announce that the VA formulary are now the only drugs Medicare or Medicaid will pay for.
When “Transformers 3″ comes out I will go see it, despite the fact that I’m shelling out money for a slight variation on a winning formula. But when the pharmaceutical industry is making its money off tired knock-offs, that’s more of a problem.