Healthcare Insights

Top 15 gastroenterology prescriptions of 2021

Gastroenterology is the study of the human gastrointestinal (GI) tract and the conditions that affect its routine function.

The most prevalent GI issues—constipation, acute acid reflux or hemorrhoids, for example—can usually be addressed with over-the-counter medications or at-home remedies. But for recurring issues or more complex concerns, a patient may require a stronger medication only available via prescription.

We’ve compiled a list of the 15 most commonly prescribed gastroenterology drugs below. Keep reading to learn more.

15 most prescribed gastroenterology drugs

RankDrug name# of prescriptions% of total prescriptionsAverage days of supplyExplore dataset
2Pantoprazole Sodium1,880,40613.00%45Explore
3SUPREP Bowel Prep823,9865.70%2Explore
6Dicyclomine Hydrochloride362,6202.50%29Explore
9Esomeprazole Magnesium246,6641.70%46Explore
13Polyethylene Glycol 3350, Sodium Chloride, Sodium Bicarbonate and Potassium Chloride with Lemon Flavor160,9371.10%1Explore

Fig 1. Data is from the Definitive Healthcare ClaimsMX product. Data is accurate as of May 2022.

Which GI medications are prescribed most often?

Omeprazole was the most prescribed GI medication in 2021, with over 1.9 million prescriptions—or 13.2% of all gastroenterology drugs prescribed that year.

Classified as a proton-pump inhibitor, omeprazole (also sold as Prilosec) is used to treat heartburn, esophageal damage, stomach ulcers and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). In 2021, GERD was the number-one GI diagnosis, with 27.4 million diagnoses (19.3% of total GI diagnoses).

The second-most prescribed gastroenterology drug in 2021 was pantoprazole sodium (also sold as Protonix), another proton-pump inhibitor used to treat GERD and other gastroesophageal issues. With 1.8 million prescriptions (13% of total GI prescriptions), pantoprazole was prescribed nearly as often as omeprazole in 2021.

Studies comparing omeprazole and pantoprazole sodium have found both drugs to be equally effective in treating GERD. However, one study suggests that pantoprazole may be more effective for treating gastric ulcers.

SUPREP Bowel Prep was the third-most prescribed GI medication in 2021, with 823,986 prescriptions. This sodium/potassium/magnesium sulfate solution is mixed with water and taken as an oral laxative to clean out a patient’s intestines prior to receiving a colonoscopy.

How do proton-pump inhibitors work?

Proton-pump inhibitors help to treat and prevent GI issues such as GERD, esophageal damage caused by acid reflux and stomach ulcers by considerably reducing the amount of acid produced in the stomach. To achieve this, they irreversibly block the gastric proton pump—known also as the hydrogen/potassium adenosine triphosphatase enzyme system—within the cells that produce stomach acid.

GI medications like omeprazole and pantoprazole sodium can reduce stomach acid production by up to 99%, enabling the healing of ulcers and inflammation throughout the GI tract. However, having too little stomach acid can prevent the absorption of certain proteins, vitamins and other nutrients. This can usually be corrected by reducing or eliminating proton-pump inhibitor use.

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