A new public report by the independent organization ProPublica shows that Xarelto is the drug associated with the highest promotional payments to doctors. With $28.3 million spent to pay all kind of promotional material in 2015, the controversial blood thinner tops every other medication currently marketed in the United States.
According to the Dollars for Docs report, pharmaceutical companies spent the highest amount of money to promote those drugs that need more aggressive marketing strategies in order to garner a larger share of the market. The highest spending was, in fact, funneled to promote medications that need to fight against cheaper generic alternatives, rather than those that are designed to cure the most severe conditions. Big Pharma’s final goal seems to be, as usual, profit instead of public health. ProPublica reports that about 618,000 doctors received a grand total of almost $2 billion to pay consulting fees, royalties, travels, speaking engagements and expensive gifts, in addition to the over $600 million used to pay hospital teachings.
Investigators combined prescribing data from the federal Medicare program with previous payment data, and found that doctors who prescribed more brand-named medicines are those who received the largest payments from the pharmaceutical industries. Other similar studies published in many medical journals already acknowledged this fact in the recent past.
Xarelto (rivaroxaban) is a popular blood thinner that recently changed the entire scenario of the anticoagulant drugs. In a few years after its approval in 2011, Bayer’s new medication was able to substitute itself to the oldest, most established blood thinner in the last 40 years: Warfarin. However, together with the other Novel Oral Anticoagulants (NOACs) Eliquis and Pradaxa, it is also a very controversial drug due to its potentially lethal side effects. Since no antidote can reverse its action, in fact, many patients who took it died or suffered serious injuries, leading to an impressive amount of Xarelto lawsuits filed in just a few years.
According to ProPublica’s study, rivaroxaban is the leading, most promoted drug, with the rheumatoid arthritis medication Humira and the diabetes drug Invokana closely following up ($24.9 and $20.9, respectively). However, even Xarelto’s direct competitor Eliquis (apixaban) is included in this list, boasting a $18.8 million in payments, and reaching the fifth position among the most promoted branded medicines. Similarly to rivaroxaban, the new anticoagulant has been also associated with many deaths, and a lot of plaintiffs filed an Eliquis lawsuit to seek compensation for the damage suffered.
Article by Dr. Claudio Butticè, Pharm.D.
- DeJong C, Aguilar T, Tseng C, Lin GA, Boscardin WJ, Dudley RA. Pharmaceutical Industry–Sponsored Meals and Physician Prescribing Patterns for Medicare Beneficiaries. JAMA Intern Med. 2016;176(8):1114-10. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2016.2765
- Yeh JS, Franklin JM, Avorn J, Landon J, Kesselheim AS. Association of Industry Payments to Physicians With the Prescribing of Brand-name Statins in Massachusetts. JAMA Intern Med. 2016;176(6):763-768. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2016.1709
- Charles Ornstein, Lena Groeger, Mike Tigas, and Ryann Grochowski Jones. Dollars for Docs – How Industry Dollars Reach Your Doctors. ProPublica. Updated December 13, 2016