Stalwart brands from AZ, Glaxo and Sanofi top ranks of most-prescribed meds

We've heard pharma's latest numbers on individual product sales. We know how each company's drugs stack up internally. But how are the top-prescribed brands doing in the overall industry horse race? 

We'll tell you, thanks to Medscape and IMS Health. The top-prescribed brand for the 12-month period ending June 30 was AstraZeneca's ($AZN) high-powered statin drug Crestor, which pulled down more than 21 million total scripts. That's promising for the brand, which AstraZeneca has been trying to leverage in the face of widespread generic competition in the statin field.

GlaxoSmithKline's ($GSK) respiratory behemoth Advair came in second with 13.6 million scripts, but those numbers might not last long. GSK is trying to woo patients over to its newer brands Anoro and Breo as knockoff versions of Advair threaten the longtime blockbuster. Meanwhile, the company has been offering price breaks to payers in return for formulary place, to milk the brand as much as possible. That prescription level put Advair several slots ahead of Boehringer Ingelheim's Spiriva (9.5 million) and AstraZeneca's Symbicort (8.6 million), Medscape says, citing IMS figures.

AstraZeneca boasts a third entry in the brand-script top 10, too: Nexium, the stomach pill, with 13.2 million scripts in the period. That number could well decline next time around, what with Pfizer's ($PFE) Nexium 24HR now on the over-the-counter market and generics rivaling the prescription brand.

Sanofi's ($SNY) diabetes fighter Lantus, a perennial heavyweight in the basal insulin market, racked up 11.2 million scripts as of June 30, putting it in fourth place overall. Sanofi is hoping that its new, longer-acting basal insulin Toujeo can latch onto some of those scripts, to help make up for any Lantus sales lost to biosimilar competition when it begins, later this year in Europe and in the U.S. as soon as mid-2016.

Rounding out the top five is Shire's ADHD drug Vyvanse, with 10.6 million scripts--a number the company hopes to boost with a new indication for binge eating disorder. Other top-10 meds include Pfizer's seizure and pain drug Lyrica, Merck & Co.'s diabetes blockbuster Januvia and Bristol-Myers Squibb ($BMY) and Otsuka's Abilify--at least for now. The oral version of that atypical antipsychotic went off patent in May, and generics are expected to quickly erode the brand's script numbers.

- see the Medscape report