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Chiropractic Research Review

1% of Drugs Account for 50% of Spending

In 1997, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reduced its restrictions for mass media advertising of prescription drugs to the public, allowing pharmaceutical companies to air television commercials without including details on side-effects of these drugs.

Pharmaceutical companies have been spending much more on media advertising as a result.

image - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark


Using data on advertising costs and prescription drug sales in 1999 and 2000, the authors of this study investigated whether drug sales are being disproportionately influenced by increasing advertising. Advertising data were obtained from Competitive Media Reporting in New York and IMS Health, a drug-marketing research company. Data on drug spending was offered by the research firm Scott Levin, through the sampling of approximately 40,000 retail outlets in the U.S.

Results: The information listed below is based on the 50 most-advertised drugs from the period of 1999-2000 (out of a total of 9,850 available prescription drugs):

* The 50 most-advertised drugs were responsible for 47.8% of the increase in consumer spending on prescription drugs;

* the sale of these drugs jumped 31.9%, while sales of all other drugs combined totaled a 13.6% increase; and

* they accounted for a prescription increase of 24.6%, compared to a 4.3% increase for all other drugs.

In 2000, the arthritis drug Vioxx topped the list for advertising costs, spending $160 million 7% of the total $2.5 billion per-year drug-market spending. Vioxx was followed in advertising costs by Prilosec (an antiulcerant) and Claritin (an antihistamine). The authors conclude: "The issues raised by DTC [direct-to-consumer] advertising are serious. They involve questions of public health, corporate responsibility, advertising ethics, and consumers capacity to understand complex medical and pharmaceutical information."

Clinical Note: We have all seen the increase in television commercials for various drugs. This study begins to address the results of such advertising. You can get the entire article for free on the internet address below.

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. Free on line at www.nihcm.org.

Chiropractic Research Review

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