Study Finds 50 Most Advertised Drugs ‘Contributed Significantly’ to Increased Pharmaceutical Spending in 2000
The 50 "most advertised" prescription drugs "contributed significantly" to the rise in the nation's pharmaceutical spending between 1999 and 2000, according to a new study, the New York Times reports (Petersen, New York Times, 11/21). The National Institute for Health Care Management Research and Educational Foundation study, titled "Prescription Drugs and Mass Media Advertising, 2000," found that increased sales of the 50 most advertised drugs accounted for 47.8% of the $20.8 billion rise in retail spending on pharmaceuticals from 1999 to 2000. Sales of these 50 most advertised drugs rose 32% from 1999 to 2000, compared to 13.6% for the 9,850 other drugs studied. According to the study, a rise in the number of prescriptions -- which climbed 24.6% from 1999 to 2000 -- rather than an increase in price, prompted the "sales surge" for the 50 most advertised drugs. The number of prescriptions for the 9,850 other drugs rose 4.3% from 1999 to 2000. The NIHCM Foundation said that the study "adds to the circumstantial evidence" that direct-to-consumer advertising "may be an increasingly important factor" in the expanded use of new, more expensive prescription drugs. However, the study found that an increase in the number of FDA-approved drugs for chronic conditions, a rise in the number of patients with chronic conditions, an aging population and an increase in spending to promote drugs to doctors also contributed to the rise in prescriptions. Spending to promote prescription drugs increased to $15.7 billion in 2000 from $13.9 billion in 1999, while spending on DTC advertising rose to $2.5 billion in 2000 from $1.8 billion in 1999, the study found. "DTC ads are still a relatively small component of all prescription drug promotion. But they are clearly becoming an important influence," Nancy Chockley, president of the NIHCM Foundation, said. She added that "we still don't know whether these ads are leading to inappropriate prescriptions" for patients (NIHCM Foundation release, 11/21).
According to pharmaceutical companies, DTC advertising boosts their "competitive edge" and prompts "consumers to pay more attention to their health while exploring options" (Silverman, Newark Star Ledger, 11/21). Alan Holmer, president of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, said, "We have an epidemic of under-treatment of serious illnesses in the United States. Surveys of both patients and physicians show that DTC advertising leads patients who would otherwise go without medical care for these terrible illnesses to seek treatment for the first time." He added that DTC advertising also may "help remind patients to keep taking the medicines their doctors prescribe." The New York Times reports that physicians, lawmakers and consumer groups have criticized DTC advertising for prescription drugs during the past year. In June, the American Medical Association approved a resolution to urge drug companies "voluntarily to place disclaimers on each ad" that state, "Your physician may recommend other appropriate treatments" (Petersen, New York Times, 11/21). The study is available www.nihcm.org/DTCbrief2001.pdf. Note: You must have Adobe Acrobat Reader to view the study.This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.