Dec 27, 2023

Big Pharma’s Year of Big Spending Attempting to Evade Responsibility for High Prices and Advertise High-Priced Brand Name Products

With each new year comes a time-honored tradition for Big Pharma: Hiking prices on hundreds of brand name prescription drugs in the first two weeks of January.

As Big Pharma’s next round of January price hikes approach, we can take a look back at a year of bad behavior for the pharmaceutical industry and be reminded why policymakers must hold brand name drug companies accountable to lower drug prices.

In our first installment of our year-end series, we reviewed Big Pharma’s egregious pricing practices in 2023, including continuing to hike prices faster than the rate of inflation, bringing new drugs to market with skyrocketing launch prices and colluding with each other to raise vaccine prices.

In the second installment of our series, we’ll look at Big Pharma’s massive spending opposing drug pricing solutions, pushing a blame game designed to boost brand name drug companies’ bottom line and evade responsibility for high prices and staggering investments in direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertising pushing high-priced brand name products.

Get a Dose of Reality on Big Pharma’s year of big blame game and DTC spending:


Big Pharma Spent Over $8 Billion On Direct-to-Consumer (DTC) Ads In 2022

In May, a report from Fierce Pharma found Big Pharma spent nearly $8.1 billion on direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertising pushing high-priced brand name prescription drugs in 2022.

Top spenders on high-priced brand name products include:

  • Sanofi and Regeneron’s Dupixent: $491 million
  • AbbVie’s Rinvoq: $425.9 million
  • Takeda’s Entyvio: $370.6 million
  • AbbVie’s Skyrizi: $228.9 million
  • Biohaven and Pfizer’s Nurtec ODT: $185.6 million

The report notes that Big Pharma’s DTC spending remains largely in line with the total for the previous year, highlighting how the pharmaceutical industry continues to execute with its business-as-usual approach to boosting profits by blocking competition from more affordable alternatives.

Spending Big On Advertising High-Priced Weight Loss Products

According to coverage in September from CNBC, brand name drug manufacturers spent nearly $500 million on DTC advertising on diabetes and weight-loss drugs in just the first seven months of the year. This included ads for Novo Nordisk’s Ozempic, Wegovy and Rybelsus products, as well as Boehringer Ingelheim and Eli Lilly’s Jardiance product.


Spending Upwards of $275 Million on Debunked Blame Game

In 2022 and 2023, Big Pharma spent at least $275 million fighting against drug pricing solutions and pushing a debunked blame game designed to evade accountability and point a finger at others in the supply chain. In 2023, this included at least $21 million in lobbying spending from The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), $11 million from Pfizer, $10 million from Amgen, $9 million from Roche, $8 million from Merck and $6 million each from Bristol Myer Squibb, Gilead and Johnson & Johnson.

Industry Spent $52 Million on Third Party and Astroturf Group Support

According to a November report in POLITICO, PhRMA donated more than $50 million to dark money groups in 2022 to oppose prescription drug pricing solutions in Congress that would hold manufacturers accountable and attempt to shift attention to others in the supply chain. This included nonprofits, ostensible patient groups and shell organizations.

As policymakers return to Washington in 2024, they should take note of the pharmaceutical industry’s continued egregious pricing practices, reject Big Pharma’s bogus rhetoric attempting to evade responsibility and shift blame for high prices and advance bipartisan, market-based solutions to hold Big Pharma accountable.

Read our first blog in this series on Big Pharma’s egregious price hikes and increasing launch prices in 2023 HERE.

Learn more about market-based solutions to hold Big Pharma accountable and lower prescription drug prices HERE.

And stay tuned as we continue to review Big Pharma’s bad behavior from this past year throughout the week.