Most people have assumed that direct-to-consumer advertising has helped drive up the cost of drugs, but there really hadn’t been much proof of that. Until now, that is.
The proof comes in the form of a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine.
In the study, Michael Law of the University of British Columbia and others looked at US sales of Plavix, the $4 billion clot-busting blockbuster co-marketed by BMS and Sanofi-Aventis for the prevention of recurrent heart attacks and strokes, and thrombotic complications following stent placement.
Plavix was introduced to the US market in 1998. DTC advertising for the drug began 3 years later, and exceeded $350 million dollars over the next 4 years.
Law’s group queried pharmacy data from 27 Medicaid programs from 1999 through 2005 to analyze changes in Plavix prescription volume, the cost per unit dispensed, and total pharmacy expenditures before and after DTC advertising was introduced.
The scientists detected no change in the preexisting trend in the number of Plavix prescriptions written after DTC advertising was introduced.
They did, however, detect a sudden, sustained increase in cost per unit of the drug, of $0.40 per unit dispensed which coincided with the introduction of DTC advertising.
This resulted in an incremental cost of $40.58 per 1000 Medicaid enrollees per quarter, or an additional $207 million in total pharmacy expenditures.
“The key issue is whether advertising to consumers, which has risen 330% in the last 10 years in the US, contributes to the significant cost increases in publicly funded health insurance programs such as Medicaid,” Stephen Soumerai told BurrillReport.