As featured in The Wall Street Journal, Money Magazine, and more!

Bill Frist and Me?

This article was written by in Uncategorized. 8 comments.

I know I’ve arrived in Bizarro World when Bill Frist and I agree on something: The introduction of a moratorium on drug ads to consumers.

Frist, a Republican from Tennessee and a heart-lung replacement surgeon, on July 1 asked drug makers for a voluntary, two-year moratorium on direct-to-consumer advertising, the type that consumers see on television and in magazines.

The problem is that consumers see the ads on television for products promising to “make them better” and then go to the doctors, requesting the drugs by name. I have no personal experience with this, as I think our society is already overly-medicated, so my assumptions are based on what I read, but the doctors will apparently prescribe what the patients ask for, rather than offer less expensive and perhaps better performing alternatives.

The drug makers obviously want to continue advertising directly to consumers. Even Eli Lilly’s spokesman says their advertising directs patients to the doctor’s office, but many people go while it’s not medically necessary, unduly influenced by advertising — advertising which accentuates benefits and downplays risks. On the other hand, drug companies blame the doctors for not saying “no” to patients who ask for unnecessary medication.

Updated July 16, 2010 and originally published August 2, 2005. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @ConsumerismComm on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.

Email Email Print Print
About the author

Luke Landes is the founder of Consumerism Commentary. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about Luke Landes and follow him on Twitter. View all articles by .


avatar JLP at AllThingsFinancial

I agree, but the problem goes much deeper than that. For instance, I read in Fortune a while back that American drug companies sell drugs to other countries for less than they sell them here. That, to me, is just wrong. If other countries want to purchase our drugs, they should have to pay the going price, which would then lower the prices for everyone.

And yes, we are definitely over-medicated!

avatar Luke Landes

Conversely, perhaps Americans and developed countries should get to pay those low prices for vaccines and drugs that third-world countries pay. (That would never happen, of course.)

But I don’t think I agree with that thought. The world benefits (over the long term) when developing countries are helped. It’s the same theory as debt relief between nations.

avatar JLP at AllThingsFinancial

I’m going to find that Colvin article and email it to you.

avatar Luke Landes

Here’s some text from the article, probably copyrighted somewhere:

In the world of prescription drugs, the U.S. market pays the stupendous costs of developing new products. It’s not only the world’s largest economy, it’s also one in which drug companies are free to charge what the market will bear. As a result, the U.S. market brings forth most of the new, breakthrough medicines the rest of the world wants. Then the rest of the world�not just Canada but Western Europe and South Africa as well�free rides on this circumstance by mandating lower prices in their countries. As long as these prices are higher than the drug companies’ marginal production costs, the companies will go ahead and sell to those countries. And as long as those countries can’t send the drugs back into the U.S., the system works.

Senator Kerry and the many others who want to legalize drug imports… believe they can achieve everyone’s dream, getting something for nothing. By simply enacting a law, they think they can make the U.S. a free rider on itself. In fantasyland, no one would have to pay for drug development at all… Legal drug imports would force a new trade treaty with Canada and spark a reordering of the drug marketplace that would lower prices in the U.S. and raise them in Canada and eventually elsewhere–while disingenuously proclaiming a simple desire to help America’s elderly…

My response:

The author doesn’t seem to be disturbed by other countries benefitting from lower costs, just the problems that arise when those lower cost drugs are imported (back) into the U.S. Makes sense from a business perspective, but the consumer wants those lower prices they can get by crossing the border.

I’m fine with the U.S. as the world’s largest economy bearing the cost of drug research while the rest of the world benefits. I think it’s the right thing to do, and if by some chance I happened to be born in a poor community I’d like to know that there are some ways the wealthier world is striving to level the playing field. (Although in all likelihood I wouldn’t have time of energy to ponder such macroeconomic concepts when I’m more concerned with how I’m going to feed my family that day, etc. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs comes to mind.) Canada isn’t a poor third-world country, and perhaps they shouldn’t be getting such a good deal on American-made and American-developed drugs, I don’t know. I’m not familiar with their health system and how their government-controlled cost system works. I don’t know how and how much they pay for American drugs.