Big Pharma Spends Nearly 68% of its $30 Billion Annual Ad Dollars to Persuade Doctors and Others to Prescribe Their Drugs to Patients. Could this Explain Why More Doctors Prescribe Remdesivir Instead of Hydroxychloroquine?

This post was originally published on here by staff writer Nickie Louise.

Big Pharma is a term commonly used for the world’s largest publicly traded pharmaceutical companies. The Big Pharma is one of the most powerful industries in the world. The global revenue for Big Pharma was over $1 trillion in 2014, according to a report from DrugWatch website. To put that into a perspective, the US spends $3.3 trillion, or 17.8 percent of the GDP on healthcare in 2016.

Nowhere else in the world do the drug and medical device industries have as much power and make as much money as in the United States. Today, Six of the top 10 pharmaceutical companies have their headquarters in the U.S. These companies include Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer, Merck, Gilead, Amgen and AbbVie.

In 2015 alone, Americans spent an all-time high of $457 billion on prescription drugs, and drug prices continue to rise. So, how does the Big Pharma spend its money? According to BMJ, for every $1 spent on “basic research,” Big Pharma spends $19 on promotions and advertising.

According to a study conducted by JAMA also confirmed by Arstechnica, Big Pharma also spends nearly $30 billion that health companies now spend on medical marketing each year. What’s surprising about the spending is that around 68 percent (or about $20 billion) goes to persuading doctors and other medical professionals—not consumers—of the benefits of prescription drugs. In other words, the Big Pharma shells out $20 billion each year to schmooze doctors and $6 billion on drug ads.

According to many drug analysts, charming doctors isn’t surprising and not a new occurrence. Big Pharma traditionally spends most of its marketing dollars on schmoozing doctors “by sending sales representatives to doctors’ offices for face-to-face visits, providing free drug samples and other swag, offering payments for speeches, food and beverages, travel, and hosting disease ‘education.’”

However, what is new and appears to be more “shadier situation—is the explosion of direct-to-consumer (DTC) marketing that couples with those efforts for a one-two marketing punch.” The Big Pharma’s influence is not limited to doctors and other medical professionals. The Big Pharma has also wields over media outlets.

For example, in 2018, an estimated 70% of all news advertising in the US came from pharmaceutical companies. I have written elsewhere about how “reporting” on medical issues can be difficult to distinguish from outright marketing for drug companies.

With the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the question everyone is asking is, could this explain why more doctors are prescribing remdesivir instead hydroxychloroquine? Remdesivir is a broad-spectrum antiviral medication developed by the biopharmaceutical company Gilead Sciences, one of the 7 Big Pharma we mentioned above.

Dr. James Todaro, a graduate of Columbia University, also made similar observation in Twitter post earlier today. Dr. Todaro said:

“The influence that the pharmaceutical industry wields over media outlets is no secret…An estimated 70% of all news advertising in the US came from pharmaceutical companies.” I guess it’s no surprise why mainstream media loves Remdesivir and hates HCQ.

We’ll let you decide and draw your own conclusion.

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