Pharma racks up multibillion-dollar marketing bill

Drug marketing spending is staggering when you think about it: companies shell out $5 billion on DTC ads and $19 billion on so-called "doctor education." Their return on investment here isn't too shabby either: of the $279 billion spent on prescription drugs in 2006, Americans chose brand names 80 percent of the time.

The numbers tell a story that sharpens up what's becoming an old argument. Drug companies say it's all about educating patients and keeping doctors up-to-date on the latest science and technology. Critics say common conditions fixed with cheaper drugs go undertreated, but those that require expensive brand-name meds--the meds that are most heavily advertised to patients and docs alike--get plenty of attention. These branded drugs also contribute to skyrocketing healthcare costs: even a few billion off the top of that brand-name-fueled $279 billion could help. Agreed?

- read the spending report from The Los Angeles Times

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