PLoS Medicine just published an article that compared US pharmaceutical company expenditures on marketing with those on research [Gagnon MA, Lexchin J. (2008) The Cost of Pushing Pills: A New Estimate of Pharmaceutical Promotion Expenditures in the United States. PLoS Med 5(1): e1 doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0050001.] Based on Gagnon and Lexchin's analysis, the estimated expenditures on marketing, $57.5 billion, were almost double estimated expenditures on research and development, $31.5 billion, and amounted to nearly 3% of the estimated $2 trillion spent on health care in the US.
Let's repeat that. Marketing of pharmaceuticals accounts for about 3% of total US health care spending.
Two bloggers presented more detailed and interesting takes on this study. This post on the Clinical Psychology and Psychiatry blog focused on how pharmaceutical companies and their supporters have capitalized on exaggerated perceptions of their spending on research and development. Although this spending is hardly trivial, it no longer seems so large in comparison to their spending on marketing. This post on the Hooked: Ethics, Medicine and Pharma blog explained how difficult it is to estimate drug companies' marketing spending, and noted how this difficulty exemplifies theses companies' lack of transparency.
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