Increased Pharmaceutical Industry Spending on DTC Ads Examined
Spending on direct-to-consumer prescription drug advertisements increased by 7% to $4.8 billion in 2005 "even after the pharmaceutical industry adopted a new plan to police the ads" in response to "criticism from consumer advocates and members of Congress who said the ads may encourage overuse of prescription medicines," the Bloomberg/Philadelphia Inquirer reports.
The voluntary guidelines, adopted by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America in August 2005, recommend that pharmaceutical companies include balanced information about risks and benefits of their products in DTC ads.
"The new spending data just reconfirm the obvious: that the new policy was toothless and that spending on these ads continues unabated," Gary Ruskin, executive director of Commercial Alert, said.
Bloomberg/Inquirer also examined the "marketing war" between Sepracor and Sanofi-Aventis over their insomnia medications. Sepracor spent $270 million on U.S. DTC ads for the insomnia medication Lunesta over the 11 months that began in April 2005, and Sanofi-Aventis spent about $90 million on ads for rival treatment Ambien over the same period, according to Nielsen Media Research.
John Abramson, a physician and author of the book "Overdosed America," said, "The 60% increase in the use of sleeping pills between 2000 and 2005 isn't due to breakthrough technology in sleeping pills. It's due to marketing" (Waters, Bloomberg/Philadelphia Inquirer, 6/2).