Top 10 biggest-selling prescription drugs

The editors of Consumer 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

Generic drugs: are they really ‘exactly’ the same as brand name drugs?

Joe Graedon, who has been writing about pharmaceuticals for three decades and runs a consumer advocacy website, The People’s Pharmacy , was 100% behind generic drugs for many years. “We were the country’s leading generic enthusiasts,” he told the New York Times in November.  But over the last eight or nine years, Graedon began hearing about “misadventures” from people who read his syndicated newspaper column, also called The People’s Pharmacy.

The stories were typically from patients who were switched from a brand name drug to a generic one, and then had side effects or found that their symptoms returned — or even became worse than before they were medicated.

Most recently, Joe Graedon has been hearing complaints on his website about generic forms of the anti-depressant Wellbutrin XL 300mg (known as Budeprion XL 300 in one generic form*), the heart medicine Toprol XL (metoprolol succinate) and the anti-seizure medicine Keppra (levetiracetam). His opinion?

“Consumers are told generics are identical to brand name drugs, but that is clearly not always the case.” Continue reading

Selling ‘Me-Too’ drugs that don’t meet any unmet medical needs

pills spoonFor stock market analyst David Amsellem, keeping a close eye on drug companies is what he likes to do. In fact, the Senior Research Analyst at the investment firm Piper Jaffray & Co. is recognized as the number-one-ranked analyst in North America for “accuracy of earnings estimates in the pharmaceuticals sector” according to a Financial Times/StarMine ‘Best Brokerage Analyst’ survey.

So he’s also pretty good at sizing up the drug industry – particularly ‘specialty pharma’ companies. These are companies making expensive brand name drugs for chronic conditions or complex care issues like cancer, HIV-AIDS, hemophilia and other bleeding disorders, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis and others.

Specialty pharmaceutical companies usually focus the majority of their efforts on one or two therapeutic areas that are served by specialized physicians. Their traditional mode of operation is to acquire under-promoted branded products from Big Pharma companies that are generating lower sales, and then try to significantly increase revenues through aggressive targeted marketing and promotional activities.

Writing in the 2009 Wall Street Transcripts Pharmaceuticals Report, Mr. Amsellem calls a spade a spade, in ways that are interesting not only to stock market investors, but to those of us whose doctors have ever written us a prescription for any name brand medication.

“Drug companies that are developing products that are not necessarily differentiated, that are more ‘me-too’ type products, that are not necessarily addressing major unmet medical needs, are finding it more and more difficult to get adequate compensation.” Continue reading