Top 10 most common pain medications
In the U.S., an estimated 50 million adults experience chronic pain. Experiencing chronic pain can lead to high healthcare costs and loss of productivity in daily work and life activities. To manage pain, people often turn to using pain relievers to resume normal day-to-day function.
What are pain reliever medicines?
Pain relievers, also known as analgesics, are used to reduce and relieve pain and inflammation. They are commonly recommended for patients after surgery, following an injury, or for both acute and chronic pain. Pain medicines are typically part of two groups: anti-inflammatory or opioids. Anti-inflammatory medications reduce inflammation at the site of pain, whereas opioids change the brain’s perception of pain.
Below, we have ranked the top 10 pain medications prescribed and dispensed in 2022. The data comes from the Definitive Healthcare Atlas Prescription Claims dataset and includes nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and opioids that were prescribed and dispensed through a pharmacy. The data does not represent any pain medications that were obtained over-the-counter, as those instances would not involve prescription claims.
Top pain medications prescribed and dispensed in 2022
|Rank||Drug name||% of pain medications prescribed and dispensed in U.S.||Explore dataset|
|8||Morphine Sulfate Er||2.00%||Explore|
What are the most commonly prescribed and dispensed pain medications?
Hydrocodone-acetaminophen was the most commonly prescribed and dispensed pain medication through a pharmacy in 2022. Commonly known under the brand name Vicodin, hydrocodone-acetaminophen is a combination medication consisting of hydrocodone (an opioid) and acetaminophen (a non-opioid). This prescription medication is typically used to relieve moderate to severe pain.
The second most prescribed and dispensed pain medication is ibuprofen, the generic form of brand name medications Advil or Motrin. This nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug can be used for a variety of conditions, including headaches, muscle aches, arthritis, dental pain, and menstrual cramps. Additionally, it is often used to reduce fevers. While this medication can be prescribed by a healthcare provider, ibuprofen is also an over-the-counter pain reliever. Prescriptions for ibuprofen, however, are for higher strength dosages at 400, 600, or 800 mg, versus the typical 100 or 200 mg dosage that is available over-the-counter.
The third most prescribed and dispensed pain medication is Tramadol Hcl. This prescription pain medication, also known by the brand names Ultram or Conzip, is a synthetic opioid prescribed to relieve moderate to severe pain.
What are other common treatments for pain?
Medications other than NSAIDs and opioids may also be used to relieve pain. Antidepressants, for example, can be used to treat chronic pain conditions such as arthritis, migraines, and nerve damage, even when depression is not present in the patient. Anti-seizure medications can also be used to relieve chronic pain resulting from nerve damage.
Since these types of medications are primarily used to treat conditions other than pain, they were excluded from the analysis above. Only a select few antidepressants and anti-seizure medications have FDA approval for pain use, so most medications that fall under those categories and are used for pain management are prescribed off-label.
In addition to these alternative medications, there are a number of non-invasive techniques to manage pain that don’t include any medication. These techniques include applying cold or heat to painful areas, exercise, physical and occupational therapy, mind-body techniques, yoga, biofeedback, music therapy, or therapeutic massages.
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