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Consumer Drug Ad Spending Continues to Rise

Pharmaceutical advertising budget more than doubled in a decade

WEDNESDAY, Aug. 15 (HealthDay News) -- Despite criticism of direct-to-consumer pharmaceutical advertising in recent years, more money is being spent on promoting drugs directly to patients, researchers report in the Aug. 16 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. At the same time, the proportion of broadcast advertisements that were reviewed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration before being aired dropped from 64 percent in 1999 to 32 percent in 2004.

Julie M. Donohue, Ph.D., of the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health, and colleagues looked at industry trends in direct-to-consumer and physician advertising by drug companies from 1996 to 2005. They found that annual spending on pharmaceutical promotion increased from $11.4 billion to $29.9 billion in that period.

There was a more than threefold increase in advertising targeted directly at consumers, but by 2005 it still only comprised 14 percent of the total spending on promotion. Pharmaceutical companies typically wait about a year from gaining drug approval by the U.S. FDA before starting direct-to-consumer advertising. The study also looked at regulatory oversight of advertising.

"The number of regulatory actions taken by the FDA against companies marketing prescription drugs to consumers has fallen dramatically in recent years," the authors write. "This decline may reflect either better industry compliance with advertising regulations or a worsening of FDA oversight."

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