Who's footing the bill for drug ads?

Who's paying for all those expensive and annoying TV drug ads?

Big Pharma's name may be on the bill... but you're paying the price. For years, the drug industry has made the ridiculous claim that the billions spent on drugs ads have nothing to do with the high price of meds.

But if increased sales are really paying for those prescriptions, why do drug prices keep shooting up even when those sales fail to materialize?

You don't need to be Sherlock Holmes to follow this money trail right to your own pocket... but a new study helps point out the obvious to anyone deluded by Big Pharma's stupid accounting tricks.

Researchers looked at the ad spending and drug sales of Plavix, which in many ways offered up a perfect crime scene, with enough forensic evidence to keep a CSI team busy for years.

That's because after not advertising this med at all in 1999 and 2000, Bristol-Myers Squibb launched a major ad campaign in 2001 one that would cost $350 million over the next five years.

Under Big Pharma's logic, we'd see prices hold steady maybe even decrease as demand soared, right?

Problem is, the ads didn't increase sales. Turns out Plavix use grew at pretty much the same rate as it did before the ad campaign began... while the cost of Plavix prescriptions went up, up, up.

Researchers looked at 27 state Medicaid programs and found that during the ad campaign, the cost of Plavix increased by 25 percent more than inflation. That cost them an extra $207 million and if I were on that CSI team, I'd name those ads as my only suspect for the price hike, case closed.

Remember, Medicaid money doesn't get plucked off Plavix trees... it comes directly from your wallet, Mr. and Mrs. American Taxpayer.

YOU paid for those ads.

Of course, not every med follows the Plavix model. Big Pharma spends billions on drug ads for one reason: They often work. But let's not get delusional about this if an ad leads to higher sales, that extra money isn't used to offset the cost of commercials. It's used to pay for even more ads and anything left over is used to line pockets (just not yours).

And if the ad doesn't result in more sales, they're not worried because you're paying for it, not them. They even get to deduct the costs of those ads. Earlier this year, lawmakers said those deductions cost us $37 billion per year.

It's win-win for Big Pharma.

And as usual, the rest of us lose.

William Campbell Douglass II, M.D.