Vol. 22 June 1, 2010 Drugs, Tobacco, and Insurance

Tobacco is a drug.

Date that the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act gave the FDA extensive authority to regulate tobacco products: June 22, 2009

Date that the FDA regulated use of “modified-risk” words like “light”and “low tar” in cigarette advertising and banned candy- or fruit-flavored (but not menthol-flavored) cigarettes: June 22, 2010 (1)

Value of stocks in tobacco companies held by 7 health and life insurance companies: $ 4.5 Billion  (2)

Amount the drug company making Flomax (for prostate symptoms) spent in 2008 on direct advertising to consumers: $116 Million (3)

Per cent increase in price for Flomax in 2009 “anticipating health care reform”: 20% (4)

Year that the FDA was given authority to approve generic drugs (Waxman-Hatch Act): 1984

Per cent of prescriptions dispensed in U.S. in 2009 that are generic and per cent of total dollars spent on generic medications: 70% / 20% (5)

Number of years of patent protection and market exclusivity for new drugs under the 1984 Act:  5 and 5 years

Number of years of market exclusivity for biologics (like Herceptin, Epogen, Humira) under Health Care Reform Bill of 2010: 12

Number of registered drug-company lobbyists in Washington, D.C. for every member of Congress: 2 (6)

Per cent of U.S. military stockpiled drugs found in a FDA study to be perfectly safe and effective after their expired date: 90% (7)

Per cent of 17,000 retirees with a new diagnosis of hypertension and a higher co-pay ($15-20) that failed to fill their antihypertensive prescriptions: 55%

Per cent of the same group with a lower co-pay ($5) that failed to fill their prescription: 40% (8)

Per cent of patients in health plans that had NO co-pay for medications that did not adhere to their lipid-lowering prescription instructions: 40% (9)

Per cent increase in “abandoned prescriptions” (prescriptions submitted but never picked up) from 2006 to 2008: +34% (10)


1. NEJM 362:19, May 13, 2010, p.1753
2. NEJM 360:23, p.2483
3. Consumer Reports, Dec. 2009 (from Nielson Media Research)
4. AARP Bulletin, Jan-Feb 2010, Patricia Berry
5 .NEJM 361;20, p.1917
6. Harper’s Index, November 2009, (from Open Secrets. com)
7.Wired, December 2009, p. 46
8. Arch Int Med 169:740, Apr 27, 2009
9. Circulation 2009;119:390-7
10. Wolters Kluwer Health 2009 survey in Philadelphia, AARP Bulletin, Oct 2009, p.10

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