What Happens When Drug Dealers Advertise?

The 50 most heavily advertised drugs last year accounted for nearly half the increase in prescription drug spending, according to a new study from the National Institute for Health Care Management Research and Educational Foundation. Sales of drugs rose 18.8% to $132 billion last year, with 47.8% coming from increases in the sales of the 50 most heavily advertised drugs. Merck & Co. was one of the biggest advertisers, spending $160 million to advertise Vioxx -- more than Anheuser-Busch spent flogging Budweiser. The NIHCM study suggests that advertising "may be an increasingly important factor in the recent trend to the expanded use of newer (and usually more expensive) prescription drugs."