Diabetes drugs and blood thinners topped the tally of drug companies’ payments and other perks to U.S. doctors and hospitals last year, according to Bloomberg Business. The perks included consulting and speaking fees, honoraria, meals and travel expenses associated with the marketing or educating other doctors about the medications.
Invokana was second only to AstraZeneca’s diabetes drug Bydureon, which paid out $22.5 million to doctors and hospitals. Johnson & Johnson was second on the list at $19.8 million of payments associated with Invokana, another diabetes drug. Three blood thinners, including J&J’s Xarelto, ($18.7 million), Pfizer and Bristol-Myers Squibb’s Eliquis ($18.6 million), and AstraZeneca’s Brilinta (over $15 million).
Why Companies Spend Millions to Get Doctors to Prescribe Their Products
The major reason companies are spending this kind of money to gain an advantage in their market: fierce competition. In ProPublica’s list of the top 20 drugs that companies are paying the most to promote that was released earlier this year, nine of those companies had a competitor also ranked in the top 20 that treated the same condition. Most of their competing drugs treat conditions like:
- Blood clotting
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
According to analysts, one reason that blood thinners and diabetes drugs are near the top of the doctor and hospital-spending list is that both of these types of medications belong to complex and competitive categories and are prescribed by both generalists and specialists, all of which requires increased spending to spread the word about the drugs.
According to data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), doctors and teaching hospitals in the U.S. received $6.49 billion from drug and medical device makers in 2014. The money was used to fund research and also to entertain doctors or compensate them for consulting or other non-research activities.