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Behind the Scenes


Prescription Drugs
Produced by J. Greenberg

According to Fortune magazine, the number one most profitable business in America -- more than commercial banks and diversified financials -- is the pharmaceutical industry. But what's good for investors isn't necessarily good for consumers -- particularly seniors.

Drug costs are expected to rise by 11 to 18 percent this year. Even if there's no hope in sight at the federal level, California seniors have gotten some relief. Senate Bill 393 passes on state-negotiated drug discounts to all Medicare patients. Senator Jackie Speier sponsored that bill, and cites runaway advertising as a major cause of skyrocketing drug prices -- a charge the pharmaceutical industry refutes.

Dr. Richard Kravitz co-authored a recent study on the way drug companies market their products in print. The study was critical of the information - or lack of it - conveyed in these ads. But Kravitz points out that direct-to-consumer marketing only accounts for about 20% of most drug companies' promotional budgets.

Where does the rest of the money go? Most of it is used to market drugs directly to doctors and pharmacies. In San Joaquin General Hospital's outpatient pharmacy, drug company sales representatives have been known to bring lunch for the staff - along with literature about their products. Pharmacy Supervisor Judi Delameter points out that the companies also provide assistance programs for indigent patients. But for those who don't qualify for these programs, the cost of prescription drugs remains the most troubling line on their healthcare bills.


John Gallapaga
Health Issues Specialist, AARP

Sen. Jackie Speier
(D) San Francisco/San Mateo

Dr. Richard Kravitz
Dir., UCD Health Services Research Ctr.

Judi Delameter
Outpatient Pharmacy Supervisor


The complete text of New Valley Episode 107 -- The Heartbeat of Healthcare...


Presentation also made possible by a grant from
the Great Valley Center


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