The drug industry is currently at an all-time peak in sales and much of the American economy can be attributed to its success. Countries all over the world depend on medications manufactured in the United States, but none more than the US itself. This can be largely why the US is commonly known as the most medicated country on the planet, or “a prescription nation.” Almost seventy percent of Americans are taking at least one drug and over fifty percent take two (according to findings at the Mayo Clinic). And a staggering twenty percent of Americans rely on more than five different prescription medications. This is a huge increase from the past decade worth of statistics. As expected, with a rapidly advancing supply of medications also comes an increasing demand.
This is good news for pharmaceutical companies as well as the American economy as sales are at an all-time high. They know that Americans rely on their drugs and will continue to manufacture high-performing and high-cost medications. The following fifteen drugs are among the nation’s top prescribed medications in descending order from fifteen to one. They are used to treat a host of conditions from pain and high blood pressure to mental illness. Let’s take a closer look at each one.
15. 15. Metoprolol (generic for Lopressor)
Metoprolol belongs to a class of drugs called beta-blockers that affects blood circulation and is a popular drug used to treat heart failure, chest pain, and high blood pressure. It can also reduce the risk of death in those who’ve previously suffered a heart attack. It can also be prescribed for migraines and hyperthyroidism. Due to its selectivity in blocking the heart’s beta receptors as well as its ability to relax the blood vessels and slow down the heart rate, it is also prescribed off-label for those suffering from mental illnesses and anxiety disorders including social and performance anxiety.
14. 14. Furosemide (generic for Lasix)
Furosemide is considered to be a loop diuretic (water pill) which works by preventing the body from absorbing high levels of salt. It is primarily used to treat and prevent water retention (edema) which can lead to high blood pressure (hypertension) and can cause a host of issues in people with congestive heart failure, kidney disorders, or liver disease. Furosemide can also come with some unpleasant and even scary side effects, such as irreversible hearing loss and gout. It can also mask other medications and is therefore usually prescribed with extreme precaution. Hyperglycemia is also reported as a common side effect.
13. 13. Hydrochlorothiazide (generic for Microzide)
Hydrochlorothiazide is the first line of medication used to treat fluid retention (edema) and high blood pressure. It is considered a thiazide diuretic (water pill) which stops the body from holding too much salt which leads to fluid retention, high blood pressure, swelling, and a wide range of other health risks. It can also be prescribed to treat diabetes insipidus, renal tubular acidosis, and in people with high calcium levels found in their urine, it can also lower their chances of developing kidney stones. For patients taking it for high blood pressure, it’s usually combined with other medications for increased effectiveness.
12. 12. Zolpidem (generic for Ambien)
Zolpidem is one of the most popular and most effective medications used for the treatment of insomnia. It is a sedative, also known as a narcotic, and works by balancing certain chemicals in people who struggle with sleep problems. Because it can be extremely powerful and works very quickly (within fifteen minutes), people often favor Zolpidem in comparison to other sleep medications. However, Zolpidem can come with some scary side-effects such as sleep walking and people have also reported doing unusual acts and behaviors while on the drug with no recollection of those activities. Furthermore, Zolpidem is addictive and can present some unpleasant withdrawal symptoms such as panic attacks and insomnia.
11. 11. Azithromycin (generic for Zithromax)
Azithromycin is an antibiotic used to treat various types of infections caused by bacteria including pink eye. It works to eliminate the growth of bacteria but does not work to treat viral infections such as the common cold or the flu. Some other conditions it can be prescribed for include ear infections, strep throat, pneumonia, bacteria-related diarrhea, and intestinal infections. It can also be taken for malaria, although it is usually combined with other medications in this instance. Like most antibiotics, however, Azithromycin can come with some unpleasant gastrointestinal side effects including nausea, upset stomach, vomiting, and diarrhea. For this reason, it needs to be carefully taken as prescribed.
10. 10. Losartan (generic for Cozaar)
Losartan is an angiotensin II receptor blocker used to treat high blood pressure (hypertension). It prevents the narrowing of blood vessels which can lower blood pressure and promote blood circulation. In people who suffer from heart disease, it can also be used to lower the risk of stroke. Losartan can also be prescribed to those with type 2 diabetes and also those with high blood pressure to help slow long-term kidney damage. Ironically, in some cases of long-term or heavy use (particularly in those with pre-existing kidney issues), it can also result in a breakdown of skeletal muscle tissue which can cause kidney failure.
9. 9. Metoprolol ER (generic for Toprol XL)
Metoprolol ER (extended release) is a beta-blocker used to treat angina (chest pain) and high blood pressure by promoting blood circulation through arteries and veins. It can also be used to treat and prevent heart attacks by blocking the action of certain chemicals that are naturally produced by the body and have a major effect on the heart. It effectively lowers the blood pressure, heart rate, and stress and strain on the heart. Less frequently, this medication can also be prescribed for treating irregular heartbeats and for migraine prevention. After an acute heart attack, it may also be taken to improve recovery and survival.
8. 8. Hydrocodone (generic for Lortab)
Hydrocodone is an opioid pain medication used to bring relief during moderate to moderately severe pain. Hydrocodone is extremely habit-forming and addictive, and it is commonly misused as a narcotic although this is not its intended use. It is not meant to be used long-term and in heavy doses, especially by those prone to abusing medication. In severe cases, an overdose of hydrocodone can cause one’s breathing to stop and can even lead to death. Furthermore, long-term use of hydrocodone is extremely difficult to discontinue and can cause unpleasant and painful withdrawal symptoms. Regardless, it is extremely popular for its effectiveness to bring pain relief and promote sleep.
7. 7. Simvastatin (generic for Zocor)
Simvastatin is used to lower the levels of bad cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood and increasing the levels of good cholesterol. By doing this, it can be effective in lowering the risk of a heart attack or stroke and other coronary complications in people that suffer from diabetes and other forms of heart disease. This lipid-lowering drug belongs to a class of drugs called “statins” also known as HMC CoA reductase inhibitors. In some rare cases, Simvastatin can also cause kidney failure and is not recommended for long-term use. Its effectiveness is best seen when paired with a healthy diet and plenty of exercise.
6. 6. Amlodipine (generic for Norvasc)
Amlodipine belongs to a class of drugs called calcium channel blockers and works by blocking calcium from entering certain arteries and also by expanding blood vessels to promote blood flow. It is an extremely effective and long-acting medication which can help blood flow more easily when arteries in the heart become blocked, a major cause of heart attacks and strokes. It is used to treat high blood pressure (hypertension) which can lower the risk of a future stroke or heart attack. It can also treat chest pain (angina) and other complications caused by coronary artery disease which reduces the likelihood of hospitalization and surgery.
5. 5. Metformin (generic for Glucophage)
Metformin is used as a first-line treatment medication to improve and control blood sugar levels in people who suffer from type 2 diabetes. It is usually prescribed in combination with other medications such as insulin but is not meant to treat those with type 1 diabetes. This is because the medicine specifically works with type 2 diabetics whose own insulin is unable to distribute sugar to the body properly. Type 1 diabetics can’t use Metformin because their pancreas glands don’t produce insulin. Metformin helps lower high blood sugar levels and restore the way the body uses food and makes energy.
4. 4. Omeprazole (generic for Prilosec)
Omeprazole is a popular medication used to treat the symptoms of gastro-esophageal reflux disease (GERD), also known as acid reflux or heartburn, and other complications and discomforts that excess stomach acid can cause. Taking Omeprazole can also promote healing of ulcers in the esophagus called erosive esophagitis that is caused by the back-splashing of stomach acid into the esophagus. It is typically used as the first line of treatment in acid reflux or erosive esophagitis and is known to be quite effective. This is because it works by shutting off the body’s proton pumps, completely disabling it from producing any stomach acid.
3. 3. Lisinopril (generic for Prinivil)
Lisinopril is an effective medication that is most commonly prescribed to lower high blood pressure (also known as hypertension) and treat congestive heart failure. It also protects kidney function, which is good for people with type 2 diabetes or kidney disease. It can also help improve survival and promote recovery after someone has had a heart attack to prevent further risk of heart damage or stroke. It is known as an ACE (angiotensin-converting enzyme) inhibitor. These types of drugs work by relaxing the blood vessels in your body. They also reduce stress on the heart and lower blood pressure.
2. 2. Levothyroxine (generic for Synthroid)
Levothyroxine is primarily prescribed to treat hypothyroidism, a condition where someone (usually women) is low in thyroid hormone. It can also be taken to help prevent goiter, an enlarged thyroid gland also known as a thyroid tumor, which is usually caused by an imbalance in hormone levels. Goiter can also be caused by undergoing radiation treatment, surgery, or having had cancer before. Some people with elevated TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone) take Levothyroxine even if they’re asymptomatic simply to reduce the chances of hypothyroidism, although this practice is slightly controversial. Lastly, Levothyroxine can also treat myxedema coma, a medical emergency which is the most severe form of hypothyroidism and is usually accompanied by severe mental changes and hypothermia.
1. 1. Atorvastatin Calcium (generic for Lipitor)
Atorvastatin can be prescribed for many different conditions but it is mainly used to treat high cholesterol and to reduce the chances of getting a stroke or heart attack. In people who suffer from type 2 diabetes, it is used for heart complications, coronary heart disease, and other heart risks. Along with a proper diet adjustment, it can be an extremely effective medicine for lowering bad cholesterol and fats (LDL) and raising good cholesterol in the blood. Atorvastatin belongs to a class of drugs called “statins” and is extremely effective in working to reduce the overall amount of cholesterol that the liver makes.
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