Healthcare Insights

What were the most prescribed antibiotics of 2022?

You’ve most likely taken an antibiotic or anti-infective at least once in your lifetime. From strep throat and ear infections in childhood to urinary tract infections or itchy skin infections in adulthood, antibiotics are one of the most highly used drugs in healthcare. Antibiotics, which are used to treat a broad variety of bacterial infections, are classified according to their antibacterial activity and chemical structure.

How many antibiotics are prescribed each year?

According to the CDC, healthcare providers prescribed 211.1 million antibiotic prescriptions in 2021. In years prior, this number has fluctuated between 201.9 million (2020) and about 250 million (2018 and 2019).

Using data from the Definitive Healthcare Atlas Prescription Claims dataset, we’ve ranked the top 10 most prescribed and dispensed antibiotics in 2022.

Top 10 most prescribed outpatient antibiotics

RankAntibiotic drug name % of antibiotic prescriptions dispensed in 2022 Explore dataset
3Amoxicillin And Clavulanate Potassium13.00%Explore
5Sulfamethoxazole And Trimethoprim6.50%Explore
8Clindamycin Hydrochloride3.60%Explore
9Clindamycin Phosphate2.80%Explore
10Nitrofurantoin (monohydrate/macrocrystals)2.30%Explore

Fig. 1 Data is from the Definitive Healthcare Atlas Prescription Claims dataset for calendar year 2022. Claims data is sourced from multiple medical clearinghouses in the United States and is updated monthly. Data accessed August 2023.

What were the most common outpatient antibiotics prescribed in 2022?

The most common antibiotic in 2022 was amoxicillin, accounting for 22.6% of all prescribed and dispensed antibiotics. Amoxicillin is used to treat bacterial infections such as pneumonia, bronchitis, certain skin conditions, and kidney and blood infections. This antibiotic belongs to the penicillin group of medications.

The second most common outpatient antibiotic was azithromycin, which accounted for 13.4% of all prescribed and dispensed antibiotics in 2022. Azithromycin belongs to the macrolides group of antibiotics and is often used to treat sexually transmitted infections, certain respiratory infections, and skin conditions like acne. Providers also often prescribe this antibiotic to patients who are allergic to penicillin.

Amoxicillin and clavulanate potassium, a combination antibiotic, was the third most common, accounting for 13.0% of all prescribed and dispensed antibiotics in 2022. Clavulanate potassium helps prevent certain bacteria from becoming resistant to amoxicillin. Combining it with amoxicillin helps the amoxicillin to remain active for a longer period of time.

For more information about antibiotics, check out the CDC guide on antibiotic classes.

Understanding antibiotic data and which antibiotics are dominant in the market is an important consideration prior to beginning the research and development process. Knowing which drugs are being prescribed more than others can help to guide a life sciences organization’s commercial strategy.

Antibiotic research and development

Antibiotic research and development begins with the discovery process which involves identifying organisms that produce antibiotic substances. Over what can take many years, possibilities are tested to identify which substances are not toxic to humans.

Candidates found during pre-clinical development are then placed in clinical trials where the drug is tested. Once the trials are complete and the drug is shown to be safe and effective, it must be registered with a governmental drug regulator prior to being prescribed.

The lengthy clinical trials, along with the long and extensive approval process, can make antibiotic research and development a very slow process spanning over many years. However, evaluating medical claims data can be a useful strategy to accelerate the go-to-market process.

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Healthcare Insights are developed with healthcare commercial intelligence from the Definitive Healthcare platform. Want even more insights? Start a free trial now and get access to the latest healthcare commercial intelligence on hospitals, physicians, and other healthcare providers.