Friday, February 06, 2009

Good Money in Mental Health

Psst. Want to make a quick buck? Get into drugs.

But not just any drugs.

Mood altering drugs.

As Tommy Chong might say, "this is some good stuff, man."

United States demand for anti-psychotics is a $12 billion dollar market and continues to grow each year.

Top sellers include Zyprexa which runs $400 per month at discounted carrier pricing.

Following close behind is Risperdol at $120 per month, and Seroquel at $120 per month.

But closing in fast with a 54% jump in sales is Abilify. Thanks in part to DTC (direct to consumer) advertising, Abilify is becoming the drug of choice.

At $450 per month is it any wonder that Abilify is the darling of maker Bristol-Myers Squibb?

Abilfy, along with another heavily promoted drug (blood thinner) Plavix, comprise more than a third of B-M S revenue.

Existing patents on these drugs will expire in 2012 so B-M S needs to do what they can to pump up sales and DTC advertising is a proven winner.

And speaking of pumping up, sales of Viagra were $5 billion last year and still growing.

But I digress . . .

Abilify is used to treat depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. Sadly, the latest thing is to diagnose these severe psychotic conditions in children as young as 6 years of age. Such diagnoses are highly controversial in children so young, and to put them on high powered, mood altering drugs so young is equally controversial.

The facts about anti-psychotic drugs don't support the sales figures.

Some studies suggest that newer, more expensive meds are no more effective than older, less expensive drugs.

The analysis found four second-generation drugs, amisulpride (Solian), clozapine (Clozaril), olanzapine (Zyprexa) and risperidone (Risperdal) were more effective than first-generation drugs, with "small to medium effect sizes."

But, other second generation drugs, such as aripiprazole (Abilify), quetiapine (Seroquel), sertindole (Serdolect), ziprasidone (Geodon) and zotepine (Nipolept), were no more effective than first-generation drugs, the researchers reported.

So more expensive, and newer, is not necessarily better for the patient.

only aripiprazole and ziprasidone among the second-generation drugs did not induce more weight gain than the first-generation drug haloperidol (Haldol), the study found.

Comparing first- and second-generation drugs, Davis's team also found that second-generation drugs produced fewer "extra-pyramidal" side effects such as unintentional muscle contractions, Parkinson-like symptoms and restlessness than Haldol.

However, only a few of these second-generation drugs reduced these side effects compared with low-dose Haldol, the researchers noted.

So why is information like this buried in medical and scientific journals and not broadcast in commercials to generate consumer awareness?

That was a rhetorical question. We all know the answer.

Oh, and in case you are wondering, Haldol is $10 per month.
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