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Posted on: Sunday, November 25, 2001
Drugs Direct to You email to the editor

A report from Wednesday's Yahoo news tells us that direct to consumer drug advertising has been wildly successful for the pharmaceutical industry. According to a study released by the National Institute for Healthcare Management Research and Education Foundation (NIHCM), a handful of prescription drugs, which were advertised heavily to consumers, accounted for almost half the overall increase in pharmaceutical spending between 1999 and 2000 in the U.S.

According to the NIHCM, retail prescription drug spending in the United States jumped to about $131.9 billion in 2000, from $111.1 billion in 1999. Their recent findings indicate that the sales of the 50 drugs most heavily advertised to consumers accounted for 48 percent of this total increase.

Among the most heavily advertised drugs were Prilosec, Lipitor, Vioxx and Paxil. The study found that drug makers spent $2.5 billion on direct to consumer (DTC) advertising in 2000 primarily in the form of television commercials. This marks a 35 percent increase from 1999 and more than a 100 percent increase since 1997 when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration relaxed restrictions on prescription drug advertising.

According to the Yahoo article, Merck, makers of Vioxx, spent $160.8 million promoting the drug in the mass media in 2000. Vioxx generated sales of $1.5 billion in 2000, up 360 percent over 1999 sales.

The article does mention that there are concerns regarding DTC advertising and some people receiving inappropriate prescriptions although the director for NIHCM does not feel this is much of an issue while the drug industry's leading trade organization, The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, flatly denies that there's any direct relationship between DTC advertising and sales changes for prescription drugs. (sounds like the tobacco industry stating they had no knowledge nicotine was addictive)

A spokesperson for The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America stated that drug makers engage in direct to consumer advertising to "empower patients to learn about newer treatment options.'' In essence, drug companies are saying that the millions of dollars spent in advertising their products on television are intended only to "empower" patients and not to sell more of their (unneeded) drugs.

Yahoo News: Report Links Consumer Drug Ads to Jump in Spending

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