The top moneymakers for the U.S. pharmaceutical industry might surprise you. These aren’t necessarily the most prescribed medications (although some of them are), but they’re the top products in terms of sales in 2009. The revenues were in billions:
1. Lipitor – used for high cholesterol: $7.5 billion
2. Nexium – a proton pump inhibitor for GERD: $6.3 billion
3. Plavix – a blood thinner: $5.6 billion
4. Advair Diskus – used for asthma and COPD: $4.7 billion
5. Seroquel – used for bipolar disorders: $4.2 billion
6. Abilify – used for bipolar disorders: $4.0 billion
7. Singulair – for asthma and allergies: $3.7 billion
8. Actos – for diabetes: $3.4 billion
9. Embrel – injectible for rheumatoid arthritis: $3.3 billion
10. Epogen – injectible for low red blood cells: $3.2 billion
All of these medications are used on a chronic basis. One month of Advair inhaler can cost $150 to $200. Lipitor can cost between $2.00 to $4.00 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 $1,500/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 percent. The pharmaceutical lobby is second to none.
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 healthcare reform it’s time to look at all costs, and there should be no sacred cows.
*This blog post was originally published at EverythingHealth*