Leading therapy areas for U.S. drug spending 2018

Medications can be categorized by the type of condition they are used to treat. In 2018, sales of antidiabetic drugs in the United States amounted to approximately 60 billion U.S. dollars, which was more than any other therapy area. Spending on drugs that treat diabetes increased by around 27 billion U.S. dollars between 2014 and 2018.

High demand for drugs to treat high blood pressure

Approximately 4.2 billion prescriptions were dispensed in the United States in 2018. The therapeutic class with the most prescriptions was antihypertensives, which are effective in lowering blood pressure. Sales of antihypertensives generated around seven billion U.S. dollars in 2018, representing just a 1.5 percent share of the total amount of money spent on medicines in the United States during the year.

Counting the cost of diabetes

The number of prescriptions dispensed for the use of antidiabetics remained the same in 2017 and 2018; however, spending on antidiabetic medicines increased by around 6.5 billion U.S. dollars over the same period. One reason for this could be a rise in the price of diabetes medications. When drug manufacturers own the patent to certain medicines, they can sell the product at a higher price because there is a lack of competition in the market. Prices start to fall when this market exclusivity ends, and generic versions enter the market.

Top 20 U.S. therapy areas based on drug spending in 2018

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Release date

May 2019


United States

Survey time period


Supplementary notes

Therapy areas are based on proprietary QuintilesIMS definitions. Includes prescription and insulin products sold into chain and independent pharmacies, food store pharmacies, mail service pharmacies, long-term care facilities, hospitals, clinics, and other institutional settings. Excludes OTC.

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Statistics on "Top pharmaceutical drugs"

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