Prescription Drug Advertising
by Paul G. Jaehnert
Many legislators in Congress still do not get it! The largest contributing factor in the outrageous cost of prescription drugs is advertising and promotion, estimated to be about 37 percent of the price we pay for those drugs. More money is spent on lobbying, advertising, and promotion by the pharmaceutical industry than is spent on research and development.
The incredible waste of valuable prescription drug resources is appalling. Here’s but one example of such waste: There are hundreds of thousands of pharmaceutical company ads that appear in many thousands of magazines and newspapers each year. Most of the major pharmaceutical company ads in magazines usually contain a couple of pages of “stats” describing the product and its contraindications. These pages are often set in type so small that they cannot be easily read. And if one were to take the time to read it, the technical language is incomprehensible to most readers. Since only a physician may prescribe prescription drugs, such advertising properly belongs only in medical and professional journals.
Billions of dollars are spent each year on television and print media ads. These enormous costs are reflected in the price of the product. Direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertising of prescription drugs should be banned. The United States and New Zealand are the only countries that permit DTC advertising of prescription drugs—and prescription drugs in New Zealand are heavily subsidized by the government (and, as an indirect result of DTC advertising, so are pharmaceutical companies). Drug prices in most other countries are about half those in the United States.
But the most damnable outrage is the Medicare Modernization and Improvement Act prescription drug language which prohibits our government from negotiating prescription drug prices! You can bet that it was the drug companies that wrote that provision into the bill. Representative Billy Tauzin, former Republican chairman of the House Commerce Committee, was one of the major architects of that Act. That provision alone has cost taxpayers untold billions of dollars. Shortly after passage of the bill, Rep. Tauzin resigned from the House of Representatives and took a position as president of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers Association—at a salary of $2,000,000 a year (plus perks).
The pharmaceutical industry does not need any more protection—it needs less! It is the drug consumer who needs protection from drug companies. It’s time to rein in the pharmaceutical industry drug cartel and their congressional co-conspirators.
Paul G. Jaehnert
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