How drug companies take ad-vantage of the rules
Tomorrow marks an important milestone for American consumers.
No, it’s not the Preakness or the royal wedding.
It’s the 25th anniversary of the day the very first direct-to-consumer prescription drug ad ran on TV.
We have been driven crazy by these ads ever since.
Just in the last couple of days I have seen ads urging us to “talk to your doctors” about: Humira, Lantus, Lyrica, Taltz, Symbicort, Linzess, Brilinta, Tresiba, Chantix, Xarelto, Tremfya, Harvoni, Eliquis, Verzenio, Farxiga, Botox Cosmetic and Trulicity.
The ads create the demand and Big Pharma creates the supply, which brings in the really, really big bucks – $329 billion in 2016.
That’s not going to change despite President Donald Trump’s much ballyhooed, 44-page drug cost reduction plan.
Only the United States and New Zealand permit direct-to-consumer prescription drugs advertising.
I don’t know how they do it in New Zealand, but here in the U.S., the U.S. Food and Drug Administration requires the drug companies to list their products’ major side effects. Some ads really stretch the rules. They often distract you by showing perfectly healthy people doing fun things, like dancing or blowing bubbles, while the voice-over warns of all the harmful effects (“leading to death”) the drugs can have.
For example, Eliquis, a dangerous blood thinner, shows an actor dreaming about a sailboat as a voice-over delivers warnings so dire any sane person would be running for the nearest exit.
It’s no coincidence that the vast majority of the advertised drugs are for chronic conditions for which consumers are expected to take the drugs for the rest of their lives – diabetes, cardiac conditions, psoriasis, COPD, high cholesterol, acid reflux.
These drugs enjoy a 20-year patent protection, during which they are supposed to recoup their research and development costs. There are no generics and the brand names are ridiculously expensive.
Tremfya, a new drug for plaque psoriasis, has a list price of $11,811 a syringe.
Humira, the best-selling drug for rheumatoid arthritis, costs about $5,000 for two syringes, and Harvoni, for hepatitis C, costs $84,000 for a 10- to 12-week course of treatment.
In developing Harvoni, Gilead Sciences made the mistake of creating a drug that actually cures something, which will severely limit its future profits, as a recent Goldman Sachs report noted.
“Is curing patients a sustainable business model?” its analysts asked, inviting the obvious answer – no, because then you don’t have any more patients to cure.
But don’t cry for Gilead. It made $12.5 billion off the drug in 2015 and $4 billion last year.
RULES » PAGE 7
An ad for the drug of stroke. Xarelto, a blood thinner used to decrease the chance