MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Steven Woloshin, MD, MS
Co-director of the Center for Medicine and Media
The Dartmouth Institute
MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? What influence does medical marketing have on medical care and drug prices?
Response: There are published studies looking at promotional spending mostly for drugs (DTC and professional). This paper is unique because it is such a broad look including not just drugs but also marketing of disease (in “awareness campaigns”), health services and laboratory tests.
What is new here is the size and scope of marketing. For context, $29.9 billion spent on promoting prescription drugs, disease awareness campaigns, health services, and laboratory tests corresponds approximately to $1000 per American. For context, FDA’s total budget is around $5 billion – and NIH’s total budget is about $30 billion.
This figure is up from $17.7 billion in 1997, with the most rapid increase in DTC promotion of prescription drugs and health services. Pharmaceutical marketing to professionals (detailing visits and samples) accounted for most spending and remained high despite policies to limit industry influence.
$30 billion is of an underestimate (egg, we did not include monies spent on professional marketing (detailing) of laboratory tests, health services or devices, the value of drug coupons/discounts/rebates, company marketing budgets, lobbying or campaign contributions).
Further it is just the tip of the iceberg – marketing works so promotional spending is an important driver of why medical care is so expensive: it leads to more – and more expensive – tests and treatments.