The editors ofConsumer Reports Health took a very close look at the recently released list of the Top 10 biggest-selling prescription drugs last year. No surprise that most of the drugs to make this list (based on total dollars spent) are expensive and heavily advertised brand name drugs prescribed for common ailments such as heartburn and high cholesterol.
But oddly enough, many would not be the first picks as recommended by the independent medical experts at Consumer Reports Health. Here’s the list, along with some of their Best Buy Drugs list alternatives: Continue reading →
Here’s more this month from investigative journalist Alison Bass, author of the book Side Effects: A Prosecutor, a Whistleblower, and A Bestselling Antidepressant on Trial:
“The same drug giants paying millions of dollars to settle claims that they engaged in illegal and improper marketing of anti-psychotic drugs in the U.S. are even now looking for new worlds to conquer. Consider the study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry. It surveyed more than 60,000 adults in 11 countries in Eastern Europe, Asia and South America and concludes that the treatment needs for people with bipolar disorder are “often unmet, particularly in low-income countries.”
“That may indeed be true. But I’d find this result a lot more believable if the study were not funded in large part by the same pharmaceutical companies who make the atypical anti-psychotics used to treat bipolar disorder: Eli Lilly (which makes Zyprexa), Janssen (the unit of Johnson & Johnson that brought us Risperdal), Pfizer (Geodon), Bristol Myers Squibb (Abilify), GlaxoSmithKline (Lamictal), and Novartis (Fanapt). Continue reading →
Pharmaceutical companies spend about twice as much on marketing their drugs every year as they do on research and development of new medications. And it’s a pretty impressive marketing budget. The Wall Street Journal recently reported how marketing numbers broke down last year. The figures don’t include the value of free drug samples that companies distribute – the largest single marketing expense.
The other major categories include:
$12 billionfor “detailing,” the industry term for sending sales reps to talk to doctors, nurses and other providers. Spending on detailing was highest for statins (such as Pfizer’s Lipitor), antidepressants (like Forest’s Lexapro) and antipsychotics (like Bristol-Myers Squibb’s Abilify). In each of those categories, branded drugs are competing against generics for a big market.
$4.7 billion for Direct-To-Consumer (“Ask your doctor”) advertising, and an additional $400 millionon advertising in professional journals. TV ads accounted for almost 62% of drug company ad spending, print ads made up 35% and online ads 4%.
$3.4 billionfor sponsoring professional meetings and events. This includes sponsoring courses and talks that doctors can attend (or watch online) in order to satisfy requirements for continuing medical education (known as CME). Industry-funding of CME has been getting some negative attention lately, with some physicians and academics calling for public disclosure of who pays for what.
And speaking of doctors, New Hampshire physician Dr. Kevin Pho writes in his always-enlightening blog KevinMD, about a type of pharmaceutical sales rep whose actions remain completely unregulated.
“These reps have unfettered access to the top academics of all fields of medicine, are invited by medical societies to give keynote addresses, routinely publish articles in the best journals, and offer advice about medications that is accepted as gospel by doctors everywhere. These reps have medical degrees, and some have become millionaires by taking fat payments from drug companies. The are “the hired guns of medicine”.
A revealing study presented at the American College of Preventive Medicine annual meeting byDr. Mohammed Hassan Murad of Mayo Clinic reviewed 202 published medical journal articles that addressed the known association between heart attack risk and the GlaxoSmithKline diabetes drug, Avandia. Among journal article authors who concluded Avandia does NOT increase the risk, 86% had financial relationships with GlaxoSmithKline. Among authors of articles offering unfavorable reviews, only 18% had relationships with GSK.
Read the entire Wall Street Journal article on drug marketing numbers.