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Consumer Advertising Drove Up Clopidogrel Cost, Not Usage

Analysis finds $350 million in DTCA did not increase dispensing but did add 40¢ to unit cost

TUESDAY, Nov. 24 (HealthDay News) -- Direct-to-consumer advertising (DTCA) of clopidogrel did not increase use of the medication, but did increase its unit cost and Medicaid pharmacy expenditures, according to a study in the Nov. 23 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Michael R. Law, Ph.D., of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, and colleagues examined pharmacy data from 27 Medicaid programs for the years 1999 to 2005 for changes in sales volume and cost for the common antiplatelet medication clopidogrel, which had been on the market since 1998 but only the subject of DTCA since 2001. The researchers analyzed post-DTCA changes in the number of units dispensed, the cost per unit, and total pharmacy expenditures.

The researchers found that after more than $350 million in DTCA spending from 2001 through 2005, the pre-DTCA trend in the number of clopidogrel units dispensed per 1,000 enrollees remained unchanged; however, the cost per unit increased 40 cents after the start of DTCA, resulting in an additional $207 million in total pharmacy costs.

"Direct-to-consumer advertising was not associated with an increase in clopidogrel use over and above preexisting trends. However, Medicaid pharmacy expenditures increased substantially after the initiation of DTCA because of a concomitant increase in the cost per unit. If drug price increases after DTCA initiation are common, there are important implications for payers and for policy makers in the United States and elsewhere," the authors write.

One study author reported conducting a study of prior authorization of medications for schizophrenia supported by a public-private partnership program including support from HMOs and the pharmaceutical industry.

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