Top 50 most prescribed drugs in the UK

Top 50 most prescribed drugs in the UK

In this ever-evolving healthcare environment, prescription data offers invaluable insights into the nation’s prevailing medical conditions and the efforts to manage them. The most prescribed drugs in the UK are not just pills; they are indicators of widespread health issues and the measures taken to address them.
This comprehensive analysis delves into the top 50 most prescribed drugs in the UK. Prescribing information highlights a nation’s fight against the non-communicable diseases that dominate the age, with a strong emphasis on chronic conditions that require ongoing management.

Top 50 most prescribed drugs in the UK

The table below shows the top 50 most prescribed drugs in the UK in the last 12 months. Source of prescribing information:


Drug name Prescriptions Cost Use
1 Atorvastatin 62,435,926 £114,329,717 High Cholesterol
2 Amlodipine 36,453,227 £34,652,344 High blood pressure
3 Omeprazole 35,514,611 £156,996,976 Acid suppressant
4 Lansoprazole 33,941,308 £45,103,164 Acid suppressant
5 Levothyroxine 33,804,500 £50,758,749 Hypothyroidism
6 Ramipril 32,815,676 £45,600,884 High blood pressure
7 Bisoprolol 28,261,920 £27,597,154 Cardiovascular
8 Sertraline 22,721,047 £35,880,305 Depression
9 Metformin 20,883,003 £62,422,231 Diabetes
10 Aspirin 20,254,997 £17,827,316 Antiplatelet
11 Paracetamol 16,030,729 £76,608,834 Pain
12 Amitriptyline 15,575,353 £21,898,940 Antidepressant
13 Simvastatin 14,494,463 £15,026,598 High Cholesterol
14 Citalopram 13,679,084 £21,429,590 Depression
15 Beclometasone diprop 13,115,174 £296,202,511 Steroid
16 Mirtazipine 12,224,701 £13,059,464 Depression
17 Losartan 11,599,025 £18,103,237 High blood pressure
18 Clopidogrel 11,174,854 £14,610,559 Antiplatelet
19 Furosemide 11,000,193 £10,543,661 Diuretics
20 Co-codamol 10,761,698 £48,799,079 Pain
21 Folic acid 9,215,779 £9,681,663 Anaemia
22 Salbutamol 8,920,624 £35,406,996 Asthma
23 Pregabalin 8,916,388 £19,751,056 Epilepsy / Pain
24 Tamsulosin 8,728,799 £14,485,762 Urinary retention
25 Amoxicillin 8,713,867 £29,167,542 Antibiotic
26 Apixaban 8,362,985 £362,137,665 Oral anticoagulants
27 Lisinopril 7,756,568 £10,588,741 High blood pressure
28 Candesartan 7,706,279 £17,091,794 High blood pressure
29 Colecalciferol 7,670,071 £37,960,917 Vitami D defficiency
30 Gabapentin 7,398,902 £42,970,427 Pain
31 Naproxen 7,398,333 £20,540,004 Pain
32 Propranolol 7,254,174 £21,496,300 Cardiovascular / Anxiety
33 Doxazosin 7,084,379 £14,382,597 High blood pressure
34 Macrogol 3350 6,910,560 £50,779,065 Constipation
35 Allopurinol 6,758,631 £9,200,601 Gout
36 Prednisolone 6,730,352 £20,229,700 Steroid
37 Bendroflumethiazide 6,172,951 £5,277,758 Diuretics
38 Gliclazide 5,924,856 £16,177,201 Diabetes
39 Venlafaxine 5,648,717 £40,196,067 Depression
40 Indapamide 5,523,014 £10,722,435 High blood pressure
41 Fexofenadine 5,405,121 £12,828,143 Antihistamine
42 Fostair 5,257,267 £173,287,125 Asthma
43 Codeine 5,241,466 £14,133,443 Pain
44 Alendronic acid 5,112,088 £22,304,837 Osteoporosis
45 Tramadol 5,012,972 £16,459,711 Opioids
46 Dapagliflozin 4,894,738 £178,402,737 Diabetes / Heart failure
47 Atenolol 4,629,738 £7,494,094 Cardiovascular
48 Zopiclone 4,522,054 £4,738,212 Sleeping problems
49 Rivaroxaban 4,331,688 £214,497,402 Oral anticoagulants
50 Diazepam 4,197,890 £9,340,881 Anxiolytics

Top 10 most prescribed drugs in the UK – what are they used for?

Here’s a summary of the treatments addressed by the top 10 most prescribed drugs in the UK:
Atorvastatin – With over 62 million items prescribed, atorvastatin leads the list, primarily used for the treatment of high cholesterol, which is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. It is also the most costly on the list, indicating its significant use and possibly its price point or dosage requirements.

Amlodipine – This is a commonly prescribed medication for high blood pressure, with more than 36 million items dispensed. High blood pressure is a prevalent condition, and amlodipine is a first-line treatment option for certain groups of patients.

Omeprazole – This acid suppressant is used for treating conditions like gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and is the third most prescribed with over 35 million items.

Lansoprazole – Similar to omeprazole, lansoprazole is also an acid suppressant, indicating a high prevalence of acid-related disorders in the population.

Levothyroxine – With around 33 million items prescribed, levothyroxine is used to treat hypothyroidism, a common endocrine disorder where the thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough thyroid hormone.

Ramipril – This is another medication for high blood pressure, suggesting that cardiovascular risk management is a significant concern in the UK.

Bisoprolol – Bisoprolol is prescribed for cardiovascular issues, specifically for heart rate control in conditions like atrial fibrillation or heart failure.

Sertraline – With over 22 million items prescribed, sertraline is an antidepressant, indicating mental health is a significant area of concern. It’s used for depression and sometimes for anxiety disorders.

Metformin – As a treatment for diabetes, metformin’s presence in the top 10 underscores the widespread prevalence of diabetes.

Aspirin – This antiplatelet agent is often used to reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke in people who are at high risk, with more than 20 million items prescribed.

Most prescribed drugs in the UK – Can NHS save money?

Looking at the list of most prescribed drugs in the UK a few drugs which are available over the counter bring attention. Extensive prescribing of medicines which are available over the counter raises a question of overspending of public money. Six over the counter medicines which are on the list of most prescribed medicines in the UK can be purchased without a prescription. The cost of only those medicines rounds down to around £200 mln a year.

Over the counter medicines which are most prescribed in the UK:

Drug name Prescriptions Cost
1 Aspirin 20,254,997 £17,827,316
2 Paracetamol 16,030,729 £76,608,834
3 Beclometasone (nasal) 1,568,043 £4,340,129
4 Colecalciferol 7,670,071 £37,960,917
5 Macrogol 3350 6,910,560 £50,779,065
6 Cetirizine 3,812,599 £12,791,631
Total cost: £200,307,892

What are the most commonly prescribed over the counter medicines used for?

Aspirin: Aspirin is commonly used as a pain reliever for minor aches and pains. It also serves as an anti-inflammatory drug and can reduce fever. Additionally, in low doses (Baby Aspirin – 75mg of aspirin), it is used as a blood thinner to prevent blood clots, reducing the risk of stroke and heart attack. Low-dose aspirin is most commonly prescribed. Low-dose aspirin can be purchased from pharmacies at relatively low cost. A pack of 100 aspirin tablets (3 months supply) may cost between £1-£2.

Paracetamol: This medication is used to relieve pain and reduce fever. It is commonly used for headaches, muscle aches, arthritis, backache, toothaches, colds, and fevers. A box of 32 paracetamol tablets should cost around £1 in pharmacies.

Beclomethasone: Over the counter beclomethasone which is prescribed includes beclomethasone nasal spray. Beclomethasone nasal spray can be purchased without a prescription. It is only licensed from 18 years of age. A most well-known brand of beclomethasone nasal spray is Beconase which is priced around £10 depending on the size of the spray. Some ‘generic’ beclomethasone sprays are occasionally available. These are considerably cheaper than Beconase nasal spray.

Colecalciferol (Vitamin D3): Colecalciferol is a form of vitamin D that is used to treat and prevent vitamin D deficiency. This includes conditions such as rickets, osteoporosis, and Vitamin D deficiency in adults and children. It helps in the absorption of calcium and phosphorus from the stomach and the functioning of calcium in the body, which is essential for healthy bones and teeth.

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Colecalciferol carries a huge price tag for NHS. GPs across the country prescribe different brands of colecalciferol with prices (to NHS) which vary a lot. Colecalciferol 1000 units and more can be purchased over the counter with some brands costing around £2 for a 2 months supply of this supplement.

Macrogol 3350: This medication is a laxative used to treat constipation. It works by holding water in the stool, which softens the stool and makes it easier to pass. The most common brands of macrogol prescribed in the UK are Laxido and CosmoCol. Movicol is less commonly prescribed these days due to its higher price. A box of Movicol costs almost twice as much as Laxido or CosmoCol.
Laxido, CosmoCol, Movicol and other brands of macrogol laxatives can be purchased over the counter.

Cetirizine: Cetirizine is an antihistamine used to relieve allergy symptoms such as watery eyes, runny nose, itching eyes/nose, and sneezing. It is also used to treat itching and swelling caused by chronic urticaria (hives).

Cetirizine tablets and liquid can be purchased over the counter.

I am a qualified pharmacist working in an independent pharmacy in the UK.
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