A new analysis of Medicare's prescription drug program finds generic Vicodin was the most widely prescribed drug in 2013, according to The Wall Street Journal.
More than half of the prescriptions came from family practice or internal medicine doctors.
Generic Vicodin is also known as hydrocodone acetaminophen. Overall, about 691,000 providers prescribed the drug in 2013, including surgeons, dentists and pain specialists. Approximately 8.09 million Medicare beneficiaries were prescribed hydrocodone acetaminophen.
The second-most prescribed drug was the cholesterol drug simvastatin, with 7.03 million prescriptions.
"It's striking that the drug prescribed to the most beneficiaries is a narcotic painkiller that can be addictive," said Walid Gellad, an associate professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.
The prescriptions come from Medicare Part D, which covers what drugs recipients get from pharmacies. They are not administered in hospitals or doctors' offices.
Many of the hydrocodone acetaminophen prescriptions were written for people who were under age 65 but were enrolled in Medicare because they were disabled. Among doctors who wrote more than 10 prescriptions for the drug for both elderly and disabled patients, about 45 percent of the claims were for people under 65, the article notes.
The analysis found some doctors prescribe the drug much more often than others, even within the same medical specialty. Most family practitioners wrote hydrocodone acetaminophen prescriptions for less than 20 percent of their Medicare patients, but a group of about 200 doctors gave the drug to more than half of the beneficiaries to whom they prescribed.