ClinCalc DrugStats: Most Commonly Prescribed Medications in 2021

ClinCalc has released the latest edition of the DrugStats database, featuring “The Top 200 Drugs of 2021”. DrugStats offers complementary access to estimated prescription drug utilization data for the United States. With this data set, users can discern patterns in prescribing habits and access an evidence-based, reputable “top 200 drugs” (or “top 300 drugs”) list based on data provided by the U.S. Government.

Where does the DrugStats data come from?

All medication utilization data comes from the annual Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS), a survey conducted by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) via the United States government. This data is publicly available on the MEPS website for free. In order for the ClinCalc DrugStats database to implement the MEPS data, basic data sanitization and standardization measures are necessary to maintain an accurate and reliable data set. Read more about the data set by clicking here.

DrugSpell Dictionary Updates

The ClinCalc DrugSpell dictionary adds thousands of proprietary brand names, generic medication names, and established pharmacologic classes (EPC) words so that word processing applications can provide an accurate and reliable spell check. This dictionary file is completely free and simple to install.

Along with the 2021 DrugStats update, DrugSpell has also been updated to incorporate additional drug and drug-related terms to provide more accurate spell checking in word processing applications like Microsoft Word.

For more information, see the ClinCalc DrugSpell Dictionary File.

Newest Trends in Drug Prescribing in 2021

The current DrugStats release (version 2024.01) represents the MEPS data set from January through December 2021. Each year, a number of medications or medication classes rises or falls in popularity due to changes in prescribing patterns. The following drug or drug classes have made major changes in the market in the DrugStats 2021 data set:

Rising Trends with Tadalafil

With tadalafil (Cialis®) becoming a generic medication in late 2018, it is no surprise to see a sharp uptick in tadalafil prescriptions in 2020-2021 as well as a reduction in cost of the medication. As of 2021, tadalafil jumped positions on the drug rank list to #171 (from #261 the year before), making it almost as equally prescribed to sildenafil (Viagra®).

Tadalafil Total Prescriptions and Patients Per Year (2013 – 2021)

Tadalafil total prescriptions and patients pear year

Tadalafil Cost Per Prescription Fill (USD)

Tadalafil Cost Per Prescription Fill (USD)

Apixaban Now 33rd Most Prescribed Medication

Apixaban (Eliquis®) jumped another 15 ranks to be the 33rd most prescribed medication in the US (easily outpacing all other oral anticoagulants). In 2021, an estimated 4 million patients in the US filled a prescription for the medication. Its popularity (and rank) has increased every year since it was popular enough to be captured into to the DrugStats database in 2014.

Apixaban Total Prescriptions and Patients Per Year (2013 – 2021)

Apixaban Total Prescriptions and Patients Per Year (2013 - 2021)

Triple Therapy for Patients with COPD

Following the GOLD guidelines’ update recommending “triple therapy” (long-acting muscarinic antagonist, long-acting beta agonist, and inhaled corticosteroid), the number of prescriptions for fluticasone/umeclidinium/vilanterol (Trelegy®) has substantially increased since 2019 and is now ranked #173 in the DrugStats list (from #224 the year before):

Trelegy® Total Prescriptions and Patients Per Year (2013 – 2021)

Trelegy® Total Prescriptions and Patients Per Year (2013 - 2021)

Continued Popularity of SGLT2 Inhibitors

SGLT2 inhibitors, specifically empagliflozin (Jardiance®) and dapagliflozin (Farxiga®), are being prescribed more commonly each year. With recent FDA approvals for chronic heart failure (preserved and reduced ejection fraction) and chronic kidney disease, the utilization of this drug class is likely to continue to increase substantially over the next few years.

SGLT2 Inhibitor Total Prescriptions by Drug Over Time

Surging Interest in GLP-1 Agonists

GLP-1 agonists have historically been used exclusively for diabetes but in recent years have been studied and FDA approved for weight loss. In fact, the weight loss reduction seen with GLP-1 agonists has been so substantial that their popularity has penetrated into the lay media and pop culture, especially Ozempic®.

Semaglutide (Ozempic®, Wegovy®) and dulaglutide (Trulicity®) increased their top drug rank to #90 and #70, respectively. Likely because dulaglutide was released to the market three years earlier, it is currently more prescribed (in the 2021 data set), but semaglutide’s red-hot popularity in the news is likely to catapult it past dulaglutide in the next several years.

GLP-1 Receptor Total Prescriptions by Drug Over Time

GLP-1 Receptor Total Prescriptions by Drug Over Time


Many, Many Other Data Trends and Interesting Facts

Between the 3 billion prescriptions and about 500 unique drug compounds covering years of prescribing patterns in the United States, the ClinCalc DrugStats database has plenty of other interesting data trends and facts to explore.

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