Changes in 30 common drug prices

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September 29, 2021
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Changes in 30 common drug prices

Climbing prescription drug prices have been a problem for many Americans for a long time. Several presidential administrations have tried and failed to rein in the high costs of drugs. Now, President Joe Biden is hoping the U.S. Congress will impose price controls on drugs. He has called for enabling Medicare to negotiate lower prices, for imposing penalties on pharmaceutical companies if they increase prices faster than inflation, and for implementing a cap of how much Americans on Medicare must spend on their medications. The pharmaceutical industry’s trade association, Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), opposes the changes, as do some conservative groups.

Using 2020-2021 data from the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and 2019 data from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, Stacker analyzed how much the unit prices of the 30 most common prescription drugs in America have changed during the past year.

The definition of price per unit is the amount that a drug costs for one tablet, capsule, or gram, depending on the form of the medication. These are only prescription dose prices, not over-the-counter options. The vast majority of common drugs are in a tablet or capsule form, not a cream or inhaler.

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#30. Lisinopril

- Price per unit in 2021: $0.018 (+0.6% since 2020)
--- Average out-of-pocket cost per day of therapy in 2019: $0.08
--- Lowest possible adult dose: Lisinopril 2.5 Mg Tablet
--- Total prescriptions in 2019: 91,862,708
--- Total patients in 2019: 19,990,170

Lisinopril treats high blood pressure and can improve your chance of survival if you have a heart attack. One of a group of drugs called ACE inhibitors, lisinopril lets your blood flow more readily by relaxing your blood vessels. A prescription is required for lisinopril, also sold under brand names Prinivil and Zestril.

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#29. Duloxetine

- Price per unit in 2021: $0.129 (+1.0% since 2020)
--- Average out-of-pocket cost per day of therapy in 2019: $0.33
--- Lowest possible adult dose: Duloxetine Hcl Dr 20 Mg Cap
--- Total prescriptions in 2019: 23,821,965
--- Total patients in 2019: 4,296,613

Duloxetine, found under the brand names Cymbalta and Yentreve, has a variety of uses. As an antidepressant, it is used for depression and anxiety. But it can also treat nerve pain such as fibromyalgia, arthritis or chronic back pain, and urinary incontinence in women, and can improve sleep, mood, energy, and appetite. A serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor, it restores the balances of serotonin and norepinephrine in your brain. It is available by prescription.

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#28. Prednisone

- Price per unit in 2021: $0.097 (-1.3% since 2020)
--- Average out-of-pocket cost per day of therapy in 2019: $0.34
--- Lowest possible adult dose: Prednisone 1 Mg Tablet
--- Total prescriptions in 2019: 22,889,929
--- Total patients in 2019: 10,999,246

Prednisone is another drug with a wide range of uses. It can treat the symptoms of low corticosteroid levels by replacing steroids, and it is useful for arthritis, allergic reactions, multiple sclerosis, and lupus. Other conditions for which it is prescribed affect a person’s lungs, eyes, kidneys, skin, thyroid, blood, intestines, and stomach, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. It is not available over the counter.

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#27. Escitalopram

- Price per unit in 2021: $0.059 (-1.4% since 2020)
--- Average out-of-pocket cost per day of therapy in 2019: $0.15
--- Lowest possible adult dose: Escitalopram 5 Mg Tablet
--- Total prescriptions in 2019: 27,510,958
--- Total patients in 2019: 6,016,820

This drug is used to treat depression and can be taken for generalized anxiety disorder, defined as excessive worry that disrupts your life for six months or longer, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. It works by raising the amount of serotonin in your brain. You must have a prescription to buy escitalopram, sold under the brand name Lexapro.

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#26. Gabapentin

- Price per unit in 2021: $0.031 (+2.1% since 2020)
--- Average out-of-pocket cost per day of therapy in 2019: $0.25
--- Lowest possible adult dose: Gabapentin 100 Mg Capsule
--- Total prescriptions in 2019: 47,149,505
--- Total patients in 2019: 9,818,634

An anticonvulsant or antiepileptic drug, gabapentin is used to prevent or control seizures. It can also ease nerve pain from shingles and restless leg syndrome. It works in various ways, treating seizures by lessening excitement in the brain, and treating postherpetic neuralgia, the pain that persists after an episode of shingles, by changing the way your body senses pain. Sold under the brand name Neurontin, it is not available over the counter.

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#25. Tamsulosin

- Price per unit in 2021: $0.071 (+2.9% since 2020)
--- Average out-of-pocket cost per day of therapy in 2019: $0.19
--- Lowest possible adult dose: Tamsulosin Hcl 0.4 Mg Capsule
--- Total prescriptions in 2019: 21,934,065
--- Total patients in 2019: 5,309,654

For men, tamsulosin can treat the effects of an enlarged prostate, among them trouble urinating and pain while urinating. It relaxes the muscles in the bladder and prostate and ​​according to the Mayo Clinic, may help increase the flow of urine or lessen the symptoms. An over-the-counter version has been available since 2010. The brand name is Flomax.

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#24. Montelukast

- Price per unit in 2021: $0.105 (+3.0% since 2020)
--- Average out-of-pocket cost per day of therapy in 2019: $0.12
--- Lowest possible adult dose: Montelukast Sod 4 Mg Tab Chew
--- Total prescriptions in 2019: 32,154,358
--- Total patients in 2019: 7,429,725

Montelukast is a medication for asthma sufferers, preventing wheezing and coughing, difficulty breathing, and tightness in the chest. It also is prescribed to those who have trouble breathing while exercising and who have seasonal or perennial sneezing or stuffy noses, though in the second case it should be used only if other medications are not appropriate. An over-the-counter version is not available.

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#23. Metformin

- Price per unit in 2021: $0.016 (-3.2% since 2020)
--- Average out-of-pocket cost per day of therapy in 2019: $0.08
--- Lowest possible adult dose: Metformin Hcl 500 Mg Tablet
--- Total prescriptions in 2019: 85,739,443
--- Total patients in 2019: 17,430,765

Along with diet and exercise, metformin is used to treat high blood sugar in people with Type 2 diabetes. It can ward off kidney damage, nerve damage, blindness, and sexual problems. It helps to restore the body’s response to insulin. It is not available over the counter.

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#22. Dextroamphetamine

- Price per unit in 2021: $0.195 (-3.5% since 2020)
--- Average out-of-pocket cost per day of therapy in 2019: $0.97
--- Lowest possible adult dose: Dextroamphetamine 5 Mg Tab
--- Total prescriptions in 2019: 24,600,698
--- Total patients in 2019: 3,576,687

This medication, in a class called central nervous system stimulants, is used to control the symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Those include trouble sitting still and focusing. Dextroamphetamine also helps to treat narcolepsy. It changes the amounts of some substances in the brain. Sold under the brand name Dexedrine, it is not available over the counter.

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#21. Trazodone

- Price per unit in 2021: $0.040 (-4.3% since 2020)
--- Average out-of-pocket cost per day of therapy in 2019: $0.11
--- Lowest possible adult dose: Trazodone 50 Mg Tablet
--- Total prescriptions in 2019: 23,934,213
--- Total patients in 2019: 5,066,449

Trazodone is used to treat depression, anxiety, or a combination of both and can help if you are having trouble sleeping or concentrating. It often is prescribed when other antidepressants have not worked. It is available only with a prescription.

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#20. Hydrochlorothiazide

- Price per unit in 2021: $0.035 (-4.9% since 2020)
--- Average out-of-pocket cost per day of therapy in 2019: $0.07
--- Lowest possible adult dose: Hydrochlorothiazide 12.5 Mg Cp
--- Total prescriptions in 2019: 38,609,803
--- Total patients in 2019: 9,358,879

Hydrochlorothiazide is a diuretic or water pill, used to treat fluid retention or edema. That can be caused by numerous medical conditions including liver, heart, or kidney disease, or as a side effect of medications such as corticosteroids or estrogen. It also treats high blood pressure. It is not available over the counter.

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#19. Amoxicillin

- Price per unit in 2021: $0.073 (-5.0% since 2020)
--- Average out-of-pocket cost per day of therapy in 2019: $0.52
--- Lowest possible adult dose: Amoxicillin 250 Mg Capsule
--- Total prescriptions in 2019: 25,702,634
--- Total patients in 2019: 20,368,921

Amoxicillin, a penicillin-type of medication, treats bacterial infections by stopping the growth of bacteria. It has no effect on viral infections such as the flu. It can also be used for stomach or intestinal ulcers caused by the bacteria H. pylori. It is available by prescription.

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#18. Hydrocodone-Acetaminophen

- Price per unit in 2021: $0.100 (+5.1% since 2020)
--- Average out-of-pocket cost per day of therapy in 2019: $0.76
--- Lowest possible adult dose: Hydrocodone-Acetaminophen 5-325 Mg Tablet
--- Total prescriptions in 2019: 30,355,778
--- Total patients in 2019: 10,409,764

Hydrocodone-Acetaminophen combines an opioid pain reliever with a non-opioid one and is used to treat moderate to severe pain. It changes how your body feels pain; the acetaminophen part of the medication can also reduce fever. A caution: There is a risk of addiction. Although acetaminophen is available over the counter, in combination this is a prescription drug.

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#17. Rosuvastatin

- Price per unit in 2021: $0.083 (-5.4% since 2020)
--- Average out-of-pocket cost per day of therapy in 2019: $0.15
--- Lowest possible adult dose: Rosuvastatin Calcium 5 Mg Tab
--- Total prescriptions in 2019: 27,041,319
--- Total patients in 2019: 6,129,254

Rosuvastatin is a statin drug, used to control cholesterol in the blood. It works by lowering bad cholesterol, or LDL and triglycerides, and raising good cholesterol or HDL, all of which help to prevent heart attacks and strokes. It is a prescription medication.

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#16. Amlodipine

- Price per unit in 2021: $0.013 (-5.4% since 2020)
--- Average out-of-pocket cost per day of therapy in 2019: $0.08
--- Lowest possible adult dose: Amlodipine Besylate 2.5 Mg Tab
--- Total prescriptions in 2019: 73,542,114
--- Total patients in 2019: 16,419,181

Amlodipine, available only by prescription, is used to treat high blood pressure, some types of chest pain or angina, and coronary artery disease, which occurs when blood vessels bringing blood to the heart narrow. It works by relaxing blood vessels so your heart doesn’t have to pump as hard.

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#15. Atorvastatin

- Price per unit in 2021: $0.040 (+6.7% since 2020)
--- Average out-of-pocket cost per day of therapy in 2019: $0.12
--- Lowest possible adult dose: Atorvastatin 10 Mg Tablet
--- Total prescriptions in 2019: 112,104,359
--- Total patients in 2019: 24,493,971

Atorvastatin is a statin drug used to reduce one’s risk of a heart attack or a stroke. It can also improve cholesterol by reducing the amount of LDL or bad cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood and increasing the amount of HDL cholesterol. Sold under the brand name Lipitor, it is available by prescription.

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#14. Furosemide

- Price per unit in 2021: $0.029 (+7.1% since 2020)
--- Average out-of-pocket cost per day of therapy in 2019: $0.06
--- Lowest possible adult dose: Furosemide 20 Mg Tablet
--- Total prescriptions in 2019: 28,352,226
--- Total patients in 2019: 6,640,042

Furosemide reduces excess fluid in your body or edema that can be the result of heart failure or liver or kidney disease. It is what is known as a “water pill” or diuretic, which causes you to urinate more often. It also can treat high blood pressure. A prescription is required for furosemide, sold under the brand name Lasix.

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#13. Ibuprofen

- Price per unit in 2021: $0.058 (+8.0% since 2020)
--- Average out-of-pocket cost per day of therapy in 2019: $0.27
--- Lowest possible adult dose: Ibuprofen 400 Mg Tablet
--- Total prescriptions in 2019: 21,746,702
--- Total patients in 2019: 10,951,995

A nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug, ibuprofen eases pain from headaches, muscle aches, menstrual cramps, arthritis, or toothaches. It also can lower fever and relieve aches and pains from colds or the flu. It blocks your body’s production of substances that cause inflammation. It is available over the counter.

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#12. Citalopram

- Price per unit in 2021: $0.027 (-8.8% since 2020)
--- Average out-of-pocket cost per day of therapy in 2019: $0.10
--- Lowest possible adult dose: Citalopram Hbr 10 Mg Tablet
--- Total prescriptions in 2019: 21,546,700
--- Total patients in 2019: 4,050,776

Citalopram treats depression and is in a category of drugs called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors or SSRIs. They are believed to raise the amount of serotonin in the brain, which helps to keep a mental balance. Citalopram, sold under the brand name Celexa, requires a prescription.

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#11. Pantoprazole

- Price per unit in 2021: $0.058 (-10.3% since 2020)
--- Average out-of-pocket cost per day of therapy in 2019: $0.15
--- Lowest possible adult dose: Pantoprazole Sod Dr 20 Mg Tab
--- Total prescriptions in 2019: 28,880,217
--- Total patients in 2019: 6,777,996

Pantoprazole treats damage from GERD or gastroesophageal reflux disease in which stomach acid reverses its flow and causes heartburn and can damage the esophagus. Sold as Protonix, it allows the esophagus to heal by decreasing the amount of acid produced in the stomach. It also is used to treat conditions in which too much stomach acid is produced as is the case with Zollinger-Ellison syndrome.

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#10. Levothyroxine

- Price per unit in 2021: $0.183 (-10.7% since 2020)
--- Average out-of-pocket cost per day of therapy in 2019: $0.25
--- Lowest possible adult dose: Levothyroxine 25 Mcg Tablet
--- Total prescriptions in 2019: 102,595,103
--- Total patients in 2019: 19,698,087

This drug is prescribed for hypothyroidism, in which the thyroid gland does not produce enough of the thyroid hormone. This hormone acts as a replacement. It can also be part of treatment for thyroid cancer. Levothyroxine, sold under a number of brand names, requires a prescription.

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#9. Sertraline

- Price per unit in 2021: $0.068 (-11.2% since 2020)
--- Average out-of-pocket cost per day of therapy in 2019: $0.13
--- Lowest possible adult dose: Sertraline Hcl 25 Mg Tablet
--- Total prescriptions in 2019: 37,157,933
--- Total patients in 2019: 7,723,122

Sertraline, an antidepressant sold under the brand name Zoloft, treats a variety of conditions: depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, social anxiety, panic attacks, and post-traumatic stress disorders. Called a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor or SSRI, sertraline increases serotonin, keeping the brain in balance. It is sold by prescription.

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#8. Fluticasone

- Price per unit in 2021: $0.478 (+11.9% since 2020)
--- Average out-of-pocket cost per day of therapy in 2019: $0.36
--- Lowest possible adult dose: Fluticasone Prop 0.005% Oint
--- Total prescriptions in 2019: 27,893,102
--- Total patients in 2019: 9,564,147

Fluticasone taken through an inhaler helps to prevent the difficulty breathing, tightness of the chest, coughing, and wheezing that accompanies asthma. It lessens swelling in your airways so you can breathe easier. As a nasal spray, Fluticasone is available both in prescription and non-prescription forms and is used to treat a runny nose and other symptoms of hay fever and other allergies. The prescription form can be used for nasal polyps.

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#7. Fluoxetine

- Price per unit in 2021: $0.221 (-14.7% since 2020)
--- Average out-of-pocket cost per day of therapy in 2019: $0.12
--- Lowest possible adult dose: Fluoxetine Hcl 10 Mg Tablet
--- Total prescriptions in 2019: 27,110,302
--- Total patients in 2019: 5,143,421

Fluoxetine, sold under the brand name Prozac, is an antidepressant that can be used to treat depression, panic attacks, and eating disorders, among other conditions. It is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor that increases the serotonin needed to keep your brain in balance. It is not available over the counter.

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#6. Albuterol

- Price per unit in 2021: $0.706 (-15.8% since 2020)
--- Average out-of-pocket cost per day of therapy in 2019: $0.84
--- Lowest possible adult dose: Albuterol Sulfate 4 Mg Tab
--- Total prescriptions in 2019: 60,679,987
--- Total patients in 2019: 19,085,418

Albuterol treats the symptoms of asthma or COPD, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, wheezing, coughing, difficulty breathing, and shortness of breath. It opens airways so that it is easier to breathe. Available under a number of brand names, it is available by prescription.

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#5. Bupropion

- Price per unit in 2021: $0.140 (-18.8% since 2020)
--- Average out-of-pocket cost per day of therapy in 2019: $0.35
--- Lowest possible adult dose: Bupropion Hcl 75 Mg Tablet
--- Total prescriptions in 2019: 25,722,873
--- Total patients in 2019: 5,520,278

Bupropion, sold under the brand names Aplenzin and Wellbutrin, is an antidepressant. Besides treating depression, it also can be used for seasonal affective disorder or SAD, depression related to the time of year, usually fall and winter, and to help people quit smoking. It is available by prescription.

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#4. Simvastatin

- Price per unit in 2021: $0.032 (-19.2% since 2020)
--- Average out-of-pocket cost per day of therapy in 2019: $0.07
--- Lowest possible adult dose: Simvastatin 5 Mg Tablet
--- Total prescriptions in 2019: 36,812,966
--- Total patients in 2019: 8,543,612

Simvastatin or Zocor is a statin drug, which helps to lower the amounts of so-called bad cholesterol of LDL and triglycerides and to raise the amounts of good cholesterol in your blood. It reduces the amount of cholesterol made by your liver, reduces the risk of blood clots, and reduces inflammation. The United Kingdom approved an over-the-counter, low-dose version of Simvastatin in 2004.

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#3. Metoprolol

- Price per unit in 2021: $0.102 (-22.0% since 2020)
--- Average out-of-pocket cost per day of therapy in 2019: $0.19
--- Lowest possible adult dose: Metoprolol Succ Er 25 Mg Tab
--- Total prescriptions in 2019: 74,578,817
--- Total patients in 2019: 15,177,787

Metoprolol treats high blood pressure, angina or chest pain, and heart failure. It also can improve your chance of survival after a heart attack. Called a beta-blocker, it relaxes your blood vessels and slows your heart rate so that your blood can flow more easily and your blood pressure falls. Sold under the brand names Lopressor and Toprol XL, it is available by prescription.

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#2. Losartan

- Price per unit in 2021: $0.057 (-24.0% since 2020)
--- Average out-of-pocket cost per day of therapy in 2019: $0.11
--- Lowest possible adult dose: Losartan Potassium 25 Mg Tab
--- Total prescriptions in 2019: 51,773,869
--- Total patients in 2019: 11,760,646

Losartan, sold under the brand name Cozaar, treats high blood pressure, helps to prevent diabetes-induced kidney damage, and reduces the risk of strokes from high blood pressure and an enlarged heart. It blocks a substance that makes blood vessels tighten, allowing them to relax and allowing your blood to flow more freely. It’s available by prescription.

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#1. Omeprazole

- Price per unit in 2021: $0.099 (-80.9% since 2020)
--- Average out-of-pocket cost per day of therapy in 2019: $0.13
--- Lowest possible adult dose: Omeprazole Dr 10 Mg Capsule
--- Total prescriptions in 2019: 52,546,641
--- Total patients in 2019: 12,869,290

Omeprazole, sold as Prilosec, treats ulcers, acid reflux, and other stomach and esophagus problems. It can help to heal damage to your stomach or esophagus and prevent ulcers and may help prevent esophageal cancer. An over-the-counter version of the medication is available.

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