How to cut prescription costs – Greeley Tribune

In opposing the slimmed-down Build Back Better Act, Sen. Joe Manchin made it clear that the only provision he still supports is codifying Medicare’s ability to negotiate prescription drug costs.

Such a law would undoubtedly help hundreds, if not thousands, of Colorado residents stem the ever-rising cost of essential medications. But there’s no reason to only help Medicare/Medicaid beneficiaries.

The joke is that America is the only country where patients tell doctors what to prescribe them. And that’s mostly true — only the US and New Zealand allow pharmaceutical companies to advertise prescription drugs directly to the public.

To be clear, other countries allow drug companies to advertise over-the-counter drugs. These would be your brand name anti-inflammatories or allergy medications like Tylenol or Claritin. What they limit are ads for prescription drugs like immunotherapies and specialty drugs, as well as mental health drugs.

Congress has the power to restrict the way pharmaceutical companies market their products and align our policies with those of other developed countries, which could then result in lower prices for consumers.

Drug advertising spending has increased over the years, but it may be a while before the exact figures are available. According to a 2019 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, total marketing spend was nearly $30 billion in 2016.

Companies spent approximately $9.6 billion on direct-to-consumer marketing (DTC) in 2016 — including cable-dominant commercials, glossy ads in magazines, and web pop-ups — of which approximately $6 billion Dollars for advertising prescription drugs. To put that in context with what we mentioned earlier, that means pharmaceuticals is less than $4 billion for OTC drug marketing around the world and $6 billion for prescription drug marketing only issued in America and New Zealand.

If that number is annoying, wait until you hear how much pharmaceutical companies spend flattering doctors. According to the same study, companies spent $20.3 billion on marketing to doctors in 2016. Several studies have shown that direct-to-physician marketing works: a 2017 study followed hospitals who used “detailing” (face-to-face meetings between pharmaceutical reps and physicians, who usually include free samples) then closed the practice and found that after policy changes, the market share of detailed drugs had decreased and the share of non-detailed drugs had increased. Detailing accounts for most of direct marketing to physicians, but “educational” meetings (read: wine and dine) with select physicians cost $2 billion in 2012, according to Pew Research.

It’s only gotten worse. According to A How-To Guide to Marketing to Physicians and Consumers, nine of the top ten pharmaceutical companies spend more on sales and marketing than on research and development. However, the article states, “Pharma marketers waste over $1 billion trying to reach doctors.”

According to the Health Tracker System, the U.S. spent “$1,126 per capita on prescribed medications in 2019, while comparable countries spent an average of $552.” US health insurers pay more than any other comparable country, and US patients also pay more out of pocket. Many brand name prescription drugs also cost more in America than in other developed countries.

It’s hard to imagine that the extra billions that drug companies spend marketing to US patients and doctors wouldn’t impact our prescription drug costs. Even if nothing else changed, if Congress brought American regulations into line with other countries’ DTC marketing rules, approximately $6 billion could be passed on to consumers as savings or reinvested in research and development.

There’s no need to spend millions to market a specialty drug across the country when only a handful of people need it. But US regulations allow drug companies to do just that, and then pass the cost – and then some – on to all of us.

– The Dominion Post via the Boulder Daily Camera, July 27 How to cut prescription costs – Greeley Tribune

James Brien

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