PhRMA, the lobbying group for the pharmaceutical companies, claims that drug companies spend more on research than on advertising. A recent study from PLoS Medicine debunks this claim:
The value of our estimate over these others is that it is not based on extrapolating from annual reports of firms that are both diversified and multinational. Our estimate is driven by quantifiable data from highly reliable sources and concerns only the promotion of pharmaceutical products in the US. The derivation of our figure is thus transparent and can form the basis for a vigorous debate.
From this new estimate, it appears that pharmaceutical companies spend almost twice as much on promotion as they do on R&D. These numbers clearly show how promotion predominates over R&D in the pharmaceutical industry, contrary to the industry’s claim. While the amount spent on promotion is not in itself a confirmation of Kefauver’s depiction of the pharmaceutical industry, it confirms the public image of a marketing-driven industry and provides an important argument to petition in favor of transforming the workings of the industry in the direction of more research and less promotion.
The article is pretty clear for non-specialists (I think), so head on over and check it out.