Top 25 Psychiatric Drugs in 2009

A few years back, we published the Top 20 Psychiatric Prescriptions for 2005. Four years later and we thought it’s about high time we updated that list with the help of the healthcare intelligence firm IMS Health, which tracks prescription data in the U.S. We published the new list this morning, Top 25 Psychiatric Prescriptions for 2009.

There’s a few interesting observations we can make based upon this data and the intervening four year span between the two lists.

First, anti-anxiety medications like Xanax, Valium and Ativan remain some of the most commonly prescribed psychiatric medications. And it’s no wonder — they are fast-acting and have a short half-life, meaning their effects typically wear off in a few hours. Xanax remains the most commonly prescribed psychiatric medication.

Zoloft is one of the oldest SSRI antidepressants available, first introduced into the U.S. market in 1991 by Pfizer. It’s been off-patent since 2006 — for four years now. Despite this, it remains one of the most commonly prescribed antidepressants. Now that it’s off-patent, it’s cheap too.

The biggest gainer in the past four years has been Cymbalta, an antidepressant commonly prescribed for depression in the sub-class known as SSNRIs — selective serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors. I’m not quite sure what accounts for the 237 percent increase seen in Cymbalta prescriptions over the past four years, but that is by far the biggest gainer in the list.

A distant second biggest gainer — and probably of little surprise to anyone who hasn’t seen an ad for this medication — is Seroquel. Seroquel is an atypical antipsychotic that is prescribed for bipolar disorder and certain types of depression. Its prescriptions in the U.S. in the past four years rose 88 percent. Risperdal also showed big gains — 45 percent.

The biggest declines we see are drugs that have gone off-patent, including Wellbutrin (a decline of 73 percent in prescriptions) and Paxil (which didn’t even make it on this year’s list). Strattera — prescribed for ADHD — lost 42 percent of the prescriptions it had in 2005. And despite Zoloft’s strong showing in 4th place — down from 2nd place four years ago — it also lost 28 percent of its previous prescriptions.

Click here to see the full list of the Top 25 Psychiatric Prescriptions for 2009.