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$1.8 Billion Spent on Consumer Drug Ads in 1999

Cheryl A. Thompson

Pharmaceutical companies spent $1.8 billion in 1999—40 percent more than in 1998—to directly promote their products to U.S. consumers, reported IMS Health.

According to the Westport, Conn.-based health care information company, Schering-Plough Corporation led the spending with $137 million devoted to the Claritin line of antihistamine products. Pfizer spent less than half that amount on its competing antihistamine, Zyrtec.

Merck and Pfizer spent more than $90 million each to promote Propecia and Viagra, products widely reported to have uneven coverage by health plans.

Despite this large investment in direct-to-consumer advertising, mostly for television ads, pharmaceutical companies spent 87 percent of their promotional money on reaching health care professionals, IMS reported.