Impact of Advertising on Prescription Drugs

WASHINGTON - According to a study by the National Institute for Health Care Management (NIHCM) Research and Educational Foundation, prescription drugs that are heavily advertised to consumers are responsible for a significant portion of the recent rise in pharmaceutical spending in the US. 25 top selling medicines promoted to consumers in 1999 accounted for 40.7% -- or $7.2 billion -- increase in retail drug spending.

The anti-allergy drug Claritin topped the list of drugs promoted most widely to consumers for the second year in a row. Schering-Plough spent $137 million advertising various forms of Claritin to consumers in 1999. The study found that sales of Claitin were up 21% from 1998 to 1999. Other leading drugs were Zytec (Pfizer), Allegra (Aventis), and Celebrex had the most successful prescription drug launch in history, reaching sales of almost $1.3 billion in its first year.

A spokesperson for NIHCM says these numbers should raise many questions. Among the most important is whether pharmaceutical companies are more focused on becoming marketing powerhouses or developing truly innovative new drugs. Proponents argue that the ads have added to the information consumers are receiving about health conditions and diseases. For more information visit,