Prescription Drug Stats a Bitter Pill to Swallow

Americans are loading up an anti-anxiety drugs — and lining the pockets of Big Pharma.

prescription drug stats

We all know Americans pop prescription drugs like M&Ms, but
for what, exactly? According to a new infographic from GOOD and
Stanford Kay, we’re worrying ourselves sick — and right into the hands
of Big Pharma.


The chart details last year’s 10 most
prescribed psych drugs, and it reads like the medicine cabinet of Liza
. Nine out of 10
drugs deal in anxiety, with Xanax, Lexapro, and Ativan leading the
pack. Seven treat depression. And nearly all can be taken for multiple

The numbers here are staggering. Doctors wrote 44
million prescriptions for Xanax and 27.7 million for Lexapro. Valium,
the least popular on the list, was prescribed 14 million times. Which
makes you wonder: Are we really so worked up? So sad? Or is something
else to blame

In 2009, the pharmaceutical industry spent $4.5 billion — the budget of a
small country — marketing this stuff (a drop in the bucket, really, when you consider that Americans spend $200 billion a year on prescription meds). The chart doesn’t make the
direct connection, but it stands to reason that the crap we put in our
bodies has everything to do with these ad dollars. Cymbalta launched into
the list of top-10 psychiatric drugs last year, after being 16th in 2008. We’d be surprised if its
TV spots, which air, oh, every other second, don’t have something to do with

Here’s the
most, um, depressing part: When you tally up all the prescriptions doctors wrote, the figure actually outnumbers the U.S.
population. So yeah, we’re over-medicated. Something else to feel
anxious about.


About the author

Suzanne LaBarre is the editor of Co.Design. Previously, she was the online content director of Popular Science and has written for the New York Times, the New York Observer, Newsday, I.D