Is Drug Company Marketing Money Well Spent?

Two stories on World News Tonight Saturday evening grabbed my attention. One was about the collapsed economy in Zimbabwe under the Presidency, since 1980, of Robert Mugabe. The other story was about how much money drug companies spend on marketing and how much of that money is directed to doctors.

In Zimbabwe, the life expectancy is 43 years. In a country that was once considered the breadbasket of Africa, poverty is now rampant and people can’t feed themselves. Because the currency is virtually worthless, with inflation running at 100,000 percent, a bunch of carrots costs $35,000 Zimbabwean dollars, a bundle of 50 rolls of toilet paper costs $5,175,000 Zimbabwean dollars and a loaf of bread costs the equivalent of a weeks salary.

In this country, drug companies spend $11.4 billion on marketing their products, and of that, $7.2 billion is spent marketing these products to doctors to “educate them”, for the most part, on the newest and most expensive drugs.

Imagine, for a moment, working for a week to buy a loaf of bread and having a life expectancy of just 43 years in a country where agriculture was once the leading export producing sector.

Then imagine for a moment, $7.2 billion being spent just to promote drugs to doctors in a country that in 2007 spent $2.3 trillion on health care or $7,600.00 per person. Health care spending is expected to reach $3 trillion by 2011.

If I were a researcher, I would have spent a lot of time finding more examples of money “well” spent. I instead just found two more examples of spending, one outdated but still mind boggling and the other a sad example of misplaced priorities. According to an FDA consumer reprint from a 1995 Institute of Medicine report, Americans spent $33 billion on “weight reduction products, such as diet foods and drinks”. I can only imagine how much we are spending 13 years later when we are in the midst of an obesity epidemic. Sadly, in 2006, Americans spent just $3.54 billion on fitness equipment in a country with a total population of over 303,741,000 people.

Zimbabwe is suffering under the rule of its current government and has become one of the poorest countries in the world. We are the richest country in the world, but I can’t help but think that we are squandering some or much of that wealth. Focusing only on drug company marketing budgets and health care spending, the numbers are staggering and it does make me question whether it is money “well” spent.

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