By Scott Hensley
Quick. Which company is the biggest supplier of prescription medicines to Americans?
If you answered, Pfizer, that's a pretty good guess. The New York drugmaker, which recently gobbled up rival Wyeth, reported sales of more than $50 billion last year. Ninety percent of the money came from prescription drugs.
But the top drug dog, as measured by the number of U.S. prescriptions filled, is generics giant Teva Pharmaceutical Industries of Israel. In fact, the contest isn't even close. Last year, Teva drugs were dispensed 629.5 million times -- well more than double the number for Pfizer's 264.6 million, according to data from prescription tracker IMS Health. Another generics powerhouseMylan is No.2, followed by No. 3 Pfizer.
Teva's position at the top of the drug charts is another reminder of the rise of generic drugs. Last year, 75 percent of U.S. prescriptions were filled with generics, compared with 57 percent just five years before.
In 2009, generic prescriptions climbed 5.9 percent while those for brand-name drugs fell 7.6 percent.
Overall, the nation's spending on prescription medicines hit $300.3 billion, a new high and up from $285.7 billion in 2008.
Speciality drugs, which include expensive biotech medicines, accounted for a big chunk of the sales gain. IMS said those types of remedies now account for 21 percent of total sales of prescription drugs.
Oh, and just in case you are wondering, the best selling drug in the U.S. remained Pfizer's Lipitor at $7.5 billion in 2009, down $300 million from the year before.