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Doctors receive $20 billion each year from Big Pharma to recommend drugs

Big Pharma profitSince 1997, pharmaceutical companies have spent $20 billion annually to persuade doctors and other medical professionals to recommend their drugs to their patients. Now, they’ll be making their plea directly to you.

The prediction comes from an analysis published by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), which found the majority of marketing costs for pharmaceutical companies are spent on schmoozing doctors. Companies send sales representatives to doctors’ offices for face-to-face visits, provide free drug samples, offer payments for speeches, food and beverages, travel, and host disease “education.”

However, direct-to-consumer marketing is a newer marketing method for Big Pharma, which is using this for an effective “one-two marketing punch,” as described by Ars Technica. In 1997 it spent $2.1 billion on consumer ads. In 2016 that amount jumped to $9.6 billion.

Direct-to-consumer advertising “increases the need for clinicians to help patients understand product claims, medical need, cost, and nonmedical alternatives,” health policy experts Selena Ortiz of Pennsylvania State University, and Meredith Rosenthal of Harvard said in the article from Ars Technica.

The authors of the report conclude that ultimately, “trust in physicians and health care institutions may be at stake if medical marketing…continues to increase unchecked.”