1993 was a good year for the American consumer. We thought we were OK. The drug industry spent only $104M in direct-to-consumer advertising for prescription medicines. By 1996, spending had increased to $585M. In Aug. 1997, the FDA relaxed advertising restrictions and we ain’t been healthy since. By 2007, drug advertising to consumers had climbed to $4.4B as the American public became sicker and sicker and the pharmaceutical industry showered us with solutions.
Men could take a pill and find their inner stallion. Another pill would help them go to the bathroom less frequently while golfing or boating or just driving around with their buddies.
Depression and monthly mood swings, cramps and bloating, sleeping problems, heartburn, high blood pressure, cholestorol and diabetes – we were encouraged to talk to our doctors.
“In the U.S., ads aimed at consumers typically account for only about 40% fo the total marketing budget for prescription drugs” a 4/16/09 WSJ article noted. “The majority of manufacturers’ promotional efforts are directed at doctors.” Those poor doctors. “Pharmaceuticals had become one of the largest ad-spending categories, ahead of ..the insurance industry, beverage companies and film studios.” Good for magazines and TV stations, bad for us.
Last year, print advertising for pharmaceuticals fell 18% while TV ads fell 4%. Given the economy, that’s understandable. So what about prices? In a 4/15/09 WSJ article, Barbara Martinez and Avery Johnson report that “prices of a dozen top-selling drugs increased by double digits in the first quarter [of 2009] from a year earlier.” Viagra is up over 20%, Cialis up 14%, an attention deficit disorder drug up 15%.
A pharmaceutical industry analyst said that drug companies are raising prices to use the higher prices as a starting point in future discussions with the government about discounted prices. Coming patent expirations on many drugs are also a factor as drug companies try to get what they can while they have exclusive rights on the drugs.