Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Big Pharma Ads Drive up drug Costs for Taxpayers

A joint Harvard – University of British Columbia (UBC) study examined U.S. sales patterns of clopidogrel, a top-selling drug with the trade name Plavix, which is used to prevent blood clots after heart attack or stroke. Plavix was selected to study the impact of advertising on sales, because it was sold for more than three years before the launch of its first direct-to-consumer advertising (DTCA) campaign in 2001.

"While clopidogrel use has been increasing for some time, we found advertising it to consumers didn't make use rise any faster," Assistant Professor Michael Law of the UBC Centre for Health Services and Policy Research, who conducted the study with colleagues from Harvard Medical School, the University of Alberta and Kaiser Permanente while he was a post-doctoral fellow at Harvard, was quoted as saying.

A significant jump in the drug's price coincided with the launch of its DTCA campaign. This higher price added $207 million to the pharmacy bill for Medicaid, the publicly funded U.S. health program for low-income patients.