We've all seen the recent increase in television commercials
for various drugs. In 1997, the Food and Drug Administration
(FDA) reduced its restrictions for mass media advertising
of prescription drugs, allowing pharmaceutical companies to
air TV commercials without including details on the side effects
of these drugs. Drug companies have been spending much more
on advertising as a result.
Using data on advertising costs and prescription drug sales
from 1999-2000, the authors of this study investigated whether
drug sales are
being disproportionately influenced by increased advertising,
through a sampling of approximately 40,000 retail outlets.
Merely 1% of all prescription drugs in the U.S. accounted
for half of the money spent on drug advertising. In other
words, nearly 50% of the money spent on the total of almost
10,000 available prescription drugs was spent on the 50 most-advertised
drugs. The sale of these drugs jumped approximately one-third,
while sales of all other drugs combined increased only 14%.
In 2000, the arthritis drug Vioxx topped the list for advertising
costs, at $160 million - 7% of the total $2.3 billion per-year
drug-market spending. Prilosec (for stomach ulcers) and Claritin
(for allergies) followed Vioxx in advertising costs. Of concern
is that doctors and their patients are seeking particular
drugs because they are well known; not necessarily because
they are the best or safest treatments for a condition.
Findlay S, Sherman D, Chockley N, et al. Prescription drugs
and mass media advertising, 2000. National Institute for Health
Care Management Research and Education Foundation, November
2001. Online at http://www.nihcm.org.
If you're interested in studies like this one, go to http://www.chiroweb.com/find/archives/general/consumer/index.html.