No. 1 Hydrocodone/acetaminophen (painkiller)
128.2 million prescriptions in 2009 with Monthly cost: $12
The country’s most popular prescription drug combines the narcotic hydrocodone with acetaminophen, the active ingredient in Tylenol. The painkiller is available as a generic and is also sold under brand names including Vicodin. A panel of doctors recently recommended that it be banned.
No. 2 Simvastatin (high cholesterol)
83 million prescriptions in 2009 Monthly cost: $28
The cholesterol drug Zocor helped make Merck into a pre-eminent drug company in the 1990s. Now it is generic and by far the most widely prescribed cholesterol drug.
No. 3 Lisinopril (high blood pressure)
81.3 million prescriptions Monthly cost: $13
Another old Merck drug, this blood pressure pill, a so-called ACE inhibitor, was sold under the brand names Prinivil and Zestril before its patent expired.
No. 4 Levothyroxine sodium (thyroid disorders)
66 million prescriptions Monthly cost: $15
Thyroid hormone supplements are taken by millions of Americans when their bodies do not produce enough on their own.
No. 5 Azithromycin (antibiotic)
53.8 million prescriptions Cost for a typical course: $44
This antibiotic was heavily advertised under the brand name Zithromax. It is still popular because of its convenient dosing and relatively benign side effects.
No. 6 Metformin (diabetes)
52 million prescriptions Monthly cost: $13
Bristol-Myers Squibb sold this mainstay diabetes drug under the brand name Glucophage. It is still regarded as one of the best drugs out there for lowering blood sugar levels.
No. 7 Lipitor (high cholesterol)
51.5 million prescriptions Monthly cost: $136
The cholesterol drug Lipitor from Pfizer is the only brand-name drug on the most popular drugs list. All the rest have lost patent protection. Pfizer’s sales of Lipitor were $11.4 billion last year, down from $12.7 billion in 2007.
No. 8 Amlodipine (high blood pressure)
50.9 million prescriptions Monthly cost: $8
The calcium channel blocker to treat high blood pressure is better known as Norvasc from Pfizer. Like most blood pressure drugs, it has lost patent protection and become a commodity.
No. 9 Amoxicillin (antibiotic)
49.2 million prescriptions Cost for a typical course: $12 and up.
Amoxicillin is a mainstay antibiotic used by pediatricians and others. Millions of kids get it for ear infections, even though most ear infections are caused by viruses, not bacteria.
No. 10 Hydrochlorothiazide (high blood pressure)
47.1 million prescriptions Commonly used as a first-choice blood pressure or edema treatment. It is also included in combo drugs like Diovan.