Health Care
Health Care

Top 10 U.S. Pharmaceutical Sales: Overpriced Brand-Name Meds

| by Toni Brayer MD

The top money makers for the US pharmaceutical industry might surprise you. These are not necessarily the most prescribed medications (although some of them are), but they are the top products in terms of sales in 2009. The revenues were in billions of dollars:

  1. Lipitor  -      used for high cholesterol                 $7.5
  2. Nexium  -    a proton pump inhibitor for reflux     6.3
  3. Plavix   -      a blood thinner                                 5.6
  4. Advair Diskus-   used for asthma and COPD      4.7
  5. Seroquel -    used for bipolar disorders               4.2
  6. Abilify   -     used for bipolar disorders                 4.0
  7. Singulair-     for asthma and allergies                  3.7
  8. Actos     -     for diabetes                                     3.4
  9. Embrel  -      injectible for rheumatoid arthritis     3.3
  10. Epogen  -     injectible for low red cells              3.2

All of these medications are used on a chronic basis. One month of Advair inhaler can cost $150-$200. Lipitor can cost between $2-4 a day, even though there is no proven advantage over a generic that costs 25¢ a day.  Embrel is for severe rheumatoid arthritis, but at a cost of $1500/month, how many seniors could afford it without Medicare Part D coverage?

Amgen has a monopoly with Epogen, used for patients on dialysis and other anemias.  The margin is believed to exceed 85%. The pharmaceutical lobby is second to none.

Hey, folks, I'm not against pharmaceutical medications. I take them, I prescribe them and I believe we have enhanced life because of new discoveries.  But with Health Care Reform, it is time to look at all costs, and there should be no sacred cows.

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