Another Drug Company Myth Debunked

Ever wondered how American drug companies can afford to buy off Congress and spend so much on marketing their toxic products to you?

A brilliant British Medical Journal (BMJ) story (free text link below) provides the answer, thanks to debunking the myth that American pharmaceutical companies charge more for their toxic products because they claim to spend more than their fair share on research and development than firms in the rest of the world do.

If that's the case, why do U.K. drug companies spend proportionately more on R&D than their counterparts in this country, while British drug prices remain much lower than those here?

Also, consider the drift of prescription drug sales from this country to Canada in recent years. Despite Canadian drug prices being 40 percent lower than those in this country, annual sales among 35 companies there are an average 10 times higher than their R&D costs.

One more myth unsupported by the facts: A former FDA official blamed low drug prices in other countries for slowing down the development of new drugs which forced some U.S. drugmakers to close their European operations. The fact is, European drug companies more than doubled their R&D spending between 1990-2003 while their American counterparts quadrupled it.

The BMJ piece argues convincingly American drugmakers could cut costs, because there's plenty of room to do so: They invest three times more money on advertising, marketing and administration than on research.

So, the next time you complain about the cost of a prescription drug, think about that branded calendar in your doctor's office or the free sample he or she gives you. Or, all those annoying ads, selling useless drugs that feature "cute" characters all designed to separate you from your hard-earned cash.

British Medical Journal, Vol. 331, No. 7522, October 22, 2005: 958-960 Free Full Text Article

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