Healthcare Insights

Top 10 FDA-approved drugs prescribed by neurologists

Neurology is the branch of medicine concerned with the study and treatment of disorders of the nervous system. A neurologist is a specialized doctor in the study and treatment of the nervous system. According to the American Academy of Neurology, a neurologist has training “in diagnosing, treating, and managing disorders of the brain and nervous system.” 

Utilizing Definitive Healthcare’s Atlas Prescription Claims data for 2022, we tracked the 10 most commonly prescribed medications dispensed for neurology in the previous calendar year. 

Most common neurology drugs by prescription volume

RANKDrug Name% share of neurology prescriptions dispensed in U.S. in 2022 % share of neurology prescription patients in U.S. in 2022 Explore dataset
1Levetiracetam6.5%9.9%Explore
2Gabapentin5.4%11.4%Explore
3Topiramate4.2%8.1%Explore
4Lamotrigine3.2%4.4%Explore
5Carbidopa-Levodopa2.5%5.0%Explore
6Donepezil Hcl2.3%5.2%Explore
7Sumatriptan Succinate1.9%4.7%Explore
8Oxcarbazepine1.9%2.6%Explore
9Amitriptyline Hcl1.8%4.0%Explore
10Memantine Hcl1.8%3.8%Explore

Fig. 1. Data is from Definitive Healthcare’s Atlas Prescription Claims and is updated monthly. Data accessed July 2023.  

What are the most common neurology drugs by prescription volume? 

The top 10 most-prescribed medications account for more than 30% of all total prescriptions, making them the most utilized FDA-approved drugs by neurologists over the last year. 

Levetiracetam, a drug used to treat seizures, takes the top spot on this list, accounting for 6.5% of all neurology prescriptions and used by 9.9% of all neurology prescription patients in 2022. Also known on the shelf as Keppra, this medicine helps control certain types of seizures.  

In second place is Gabapentin, also known as Neurontin, which is another medication used to treat seizures. It accounts for 5.4% of all prescriptions in 2022. Gabapentin is also sometimes used to treat nerve pain, numbness, or tingling sensations due to nerve damage in people who have diabetes, as well as hot flashes in women being treated for breast cancer.  

In third place is another drug used to treat epilepsy: Topiramate. Sometimes known as Topamax or Topiragen, this medication is also used to treat migraine headaches, and in some cases may be used to manage the weight of obese patients or treat patients with end-stage renal disease (ESRD). Topiramate accounts for 4.2% of all neurology prescriptions in 2022.  

What are neurological conditions? 

Neurologic conditions affect the nervous system, which is responsible for regulating and coordinating bodily functions. The nervous system has two major divisions, the central nervous system, and the peripheral nervous system. 

Some of the more common neurologic conditions are: 

  • Neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) 
  • Concussions 
  • Epilepsy 
  • Migraine and other headache disorders 
  • Multiple sclerosis and other demyelinating diseases 
  • Stroke 

What drugs do neurologists prescribe? 

The types of drugs prescribed by neurologists depend on the specific condition being treated. 

Anticonvulsants, or antiepileptic drugs, are used to prevent or treat seizures by controlling abnormal electrical activity in the patient’s brain. According to the CDC, approximately 3.4 million Americans have active epilepsy. Many of the most common drugs prescribed by neurologists treat epilepsy or similar disorders, including levetiracetam, topiramate, and oxcarbazepine.  

Neurologists may also prescribe drugs to treat patients with conditions like dementia or Parkinson’s disease. Donepezil and galantamine are two common medications, also known as cholinesterase inhibitors, used to treat Alzheimer’s disease. Symptoms of Parkinson’s disease include tremors, slowness of movement, and stiffness, which are often caused by a lack of dopamine. Carbidopa and levodopa are two drugs that instruct the brain to create more dopamine, helping patients function better.  

Other common neurological medications include certain types of antidepressants, beta blockers, and blood thinners.  

How do neurologists diagnose and treat patients? 

According to the Cleveland Clinic, neurologists may use a host of diagnostic approaches such as blood, urine, or other fluid tests in order to help understand a condition’s severity or check on medication levels. Additionally, neurologists may use genetic testing to identify inherited disorders. 

Imaging studies of a patient’s nervous system might also be ordered to aid in diagnosis. Once a diagnosis is made, neurologists use medications, physical therapy, or other approaches. 

Neurologists do not perform surgery. If one of their patients requires surgery, they refer them to a neurosurgeon. 

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