This Week in Data: Prescription Drugs


This week, Enigma debuted our newest Labs project, A Prescription for Healthcare Data. The site brings together 10 distinct healthcare datasets to create robust timelines for over 80 common pharmaceutical drugs. Our goal is to drive deeper discovery of prescription drug life cycles by enabling visitors to dive into data covering everything from drug development to patient usage.

Given the recent release of 'A Prescription for Healthcare Data', we decided to focus today’s This Week in Data post on exploring the datasets used to create this new Enigma Labs project.

So, let's dive in.

While all of these datasets are typically separated, they cover very similar territory in terms of initial and ongoing drug development, Medicare usage, and adverse patient reactions. A Prescription for Healthcare Data connects datasets from the following sources:

  • USPTO Patents
  • NIH Clinical Trials
  • FDA Adverse Event Reporting
  • FDA Orange Book
  • CDC Recalls
  • FDA Approved Drugs
  • FDA Orphaned Products
  • CMS Medicare Spending
  • Drugs@FDA
  • European Drug Registry
Prescription Drugs One

Clinical trials

The largest clinical trial included on this site was for the drug Fluticasone, a steroid and decongestant. The Fluticasone trial studied asthma therapies over a 10-year period and enrolled 815,377 human participants.

Most patients in one study

  • 815,377Fluticasone
  • 615,067Insulin
  • 575,462Denosumab

The drug with the greatest number of clinical trial patients total is Insulin, which had 1,792,611 human patient participants in various clinical trials from August 1982 onwards. This reach makes sense as Insulin is common treatment for diabetes, a condition that affects over 9% of the US population. Fair warning, Insulin is going to come up a lot in this post, given how commonly-prescribed it is.

Most clinical trial patients overall

  • 1,238,351Fluticasone
  • 1,792,611Insulin
  • 626,819Denosumab
Prescription Drugs Two

Rare drugs

59% of the drugs featured on this site have received rare drug designation. These drugs are part of a larger Orphan Drug category, meaning each of these drugs treat conditions that affect fewer than 200,000 people. As these drugs don’t necessarily guarantee huge profits, their development is officially incentivized by the US government. A major aspect of said incentivization is the 7-year marketing exclusivity that orphan drug original manufacturers receive.

Of all the drugs featured on this site, Paclitaxel, a chemotherapy treatment, has received the most rare drug designations: 24 designations over 18 years.


In terms of US patent data, Insulin has received the most US patent approvals, with a total of 355 since [2006], followed by Dimethyl and Glucagon. These patents vary from Patent #11415942, “Method for diagnosing insulin resistance from nasal secretions” to Patent #11018706, a “Programmable insulin pump”.

Most clinical trial patients overall

  • 146Dimethyl
  • 355Insulin
  • 71Glucagon
Prescription Drugs Three


Lastly, let’s talk dollars. 20% of Medicare spending is dedicated to prescription drug coverage. For the more than 80 prescription drugs covered on this site, the total Medicare spend for 2015 was: $65,221,623,726. ($65B) The drugs Medicare has spent the most money since 2010? Insulin, Esomeprazole, and Sogosbuvir.

Medicare spend since 2010

  • $15,375,187,929.66Insulin
  • $13,208,932,747.62Esomeprazole
  • $12,170,085,285.40Sofosbuvir