Saturday, April 30, 2011

The trouble with blockbusters: expensive, crappy sequels

h/t My Strong Medicine:

April 20, 2011 — The 10 most prescribed drugs in the U.S. aren’t the drugs on which we spend the most, according to a report from the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics.

Out of the $307 billion we spent on drugs in 2010, we spent most of our money on the following:

Lipitor, a cholesterol-lowering statin drug — $7.2 billion
Nexium, an antacid drug — $6.3 billion
Plavix, a blood thinner — $6.1 billion
Advair Diskus, an asthma inhaler — $4.7 billion
Abilify, an antipsychotic drug — $4.6 billion
Seroquel, an antipsychotic drug — $4.4 billion
Singulair, an oral asthma drug — $4.1 billion
Crestor, a cholesterol-lowering statin drug — $3.8 billion
Actos, a diabetes drug — $3.5 billion
Epogen, an injectable anemia drug — $3.3 billion

What struck me was that with the exception of Epogen and (for certain indications) Plavix, every single one of those drugs is a variant on an older, now generic drug, which works for all intents and purposes just as well.

Crestor? Really? Nexium? Actos?

If you wanted to shave a quick $20 billion off the government’s healthcare costs, you could just announce that the VA formulary are now the only drugs Medicare or Medicaid will pay for.

When “Transformers 3″ comes out I will go see it, despite the fact that I’m shelling out money for a slight variation on a winning formula. But when the pharmaceutical industry is making its money off tired knock-offs, that’s more of a problem.

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