America is a Xanax nation according to a report just posted on Forbes.com. Of the more than 250 million prescriptions written for psychiatric drugs in 2009 in this country, Xanax is the by far most popular. Nearly 50 million prescriptions were written for this benzodiazepine or its generic form last year. Runners up for the top spot include Ambien, Lexapro, Zoloft, and Prozac.
The numbers, which are based on 2009 prescription data provided by IMS Health, attest to the fact that more psychiatric prescriptions were written last year than there are people in the country. This graph illustrates the 10 most prescribed psychiatric drugs.
Despite their overwhelming popularity, however, there is concern that pharmaceutical companies are cutting back on research on new psychiatric drugs. Jeffrey A. Lieberman, MD, chairman of psychiatry at Columbia University, who is quoted in the Forbes article, explained that because many people who do not have a mental illness are now being admitted to clinical trials of psychiatric drugs, it is difficult to prove a positive or negative effect. Moreover, Lieberman noted, there are “so many good generic psychiatric drugs” now available that it it is perceived as hard to improve on them. He points to a “huge, unmet need” for better drugs for patients with depression, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder.