- A thyroid treatment that has been around for more than six decades continues to reign as the most popular drug in America, according to a new report.
- Between March 2017 and February 2018, levothyroxine was the most-prescribed drug in 26 states, data aggregator GoodRx Inc. found. The drug is available as a branded product marketed as Synthroid from AbbVie Inc. and as a generic. Prescriptions for levothyroxine surpassed 100 million annually from 2012 to 2016.
- In 10 states, the most-prescribed drug was hydrocodone/acetaminophen, the active ingredients in Vicodin and many other opioid-based painkillers.
Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly characterized in which regions acetaminophen/hydrocodone was the most popular drug.
Data from IQVIA shows levothyroxine prescriptions reached 123 million in 2016, the most of any pharmaceutical on the market. It's also the only drug to breach 100 million prescriptions each year from 2012 to 2016.
AbbVie has certainly benefited from that trend. Though the bulk of the company's revenue comes from its blockbuster anti-inflammatory product Humira (adalimumab), Synthroid raked in a not-insignficant $781 million last year — a particularly noteworthy feat given the Food and Drug Administration approved generic copies more than a decade ago.
There was a period not too far back when acetaminophen/hydrocodone outpaced levothyroxine. But amid a national abuse and overdose epidemic, doctors have started to hit the breaks on opioid-based therapies. Prescriptions for acetaminophen/hydrocodone, for example fell 33% from 2012 to 2016.
That type of opioid continues to be widely used, however, particularly in certain regions. GoodRx's report determined that, of the 10 states where acetaminophen/hydrocodone was the most popular drug, almost all of them were in the Midwest and South.
"There’s been no lack of concern about the high rates of opioid use and abuse in the U.S., with daily headlines about the opioid epidemic," Thomas Goetz, leader of GoodRx's research team, wrote in the report. "Nonetheless, the drugs are still widely prescribed in all states, much to the alarm of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention."
The other drugs GoodRx found to be widely-prescribed include the cholesterol medication atorvastatin, most popular in five states; the blood pressure medicines lisinopril and amlodipine, most popular in five states and one state, respectively; amphetamine salts, most popular in two states; and addiction treatment buprenorphine/naloxone, most popular in one state.