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British Question U.S. Drug Policy

Even the conservative socialistic British government is seriously questioning the recently initiated Medicare policy of giving seniors even more access to free drugs. Some of their concerns are the proliferation of direct to consumer advertising may also be contributing to the rise in drug spending. The United States allows ads in the broadcast media that encourage patients to talk to their doctors about trying brand name medicines. More money was spent in the year 2000 on direct to consumer advertising of the anti-arthritic drug Vioxx than was spent on advertising Pepsi, Budweiser beer, or Nike's top shoes. But pharmaceutical company spending on consumer advertising is only a small proportion of the promotional budget, most of which is still targeted at physicians, which exceeds $15 billion every year.

The United States, unlike most other developed countries, has no government body that regulates the price of drugs or (as in the United Kingdom) the profits of pharmaceutical companies. International price comparisons often conclude that U.S. citizens pay more than anyone else for drugs.

British Medical Journal December 13, 2003;327:1397-1400 Free full text journal article

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