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In 2009, antipsychotics proved quite popular, not to mention profitable

April 1, 2010 |  5:05 pm

Lipitor Americans are plunking down more money than ever to medicate themselves. In 2009, according to a new report from market research specialist IMS Health, we spent 5.1% more on drugs than we did in 2008 -- for a total of $300.3 billion.

Here's the company's press release, with a quick overview of prescribing trends and what's driving the growth in sales, and an Associated Press story.

To cut to the chase, go straight to the list of the top therapeutic classes of drugs. Sitting pretty in the No. 1 position are antipsychotics, with $14.6 billion in sales. They're followed by proton-pump inhibitors at ($13.6 billion) and lipid regulators ($13.1 billion).

Speaking of lipid regulators (called "cholesterol drugs" by most people), the bestselling single drug was Lipitor, with $7.5 billion in sales. It was followed by Nexium ($6.3 billion) and Plavix ($5.6 billion). Here's the list of the top 15 drugs, in terms of sales.

Want more data? There are also other drug charts -- all offering useful snapshots of today's medical field and, perhaps, society in general.

For a look at the marketing of a newer generation of antipsychotics, there's this L.A. Times article: Atypical antipsychotics: too hard a sell? It begins:

"About a year ago, patients began trooping into the office of UCLA psychiatrist Andrew Leuchter, asking whether an antipsychotic drug called Abilify "might be right for them." Few appeared to be delusional, plagued by hallucinations or suffering fearsome mood swings. Mostly, they were depressed or anxious, and frustrated by the pace of their recovery.

Leuchter wondered what was up: Depressed patients didn't usually seek out drugs used to quell psychiatry's most disturbing symptoms.

What was up, he soon discovered, was spending on a new advertising campaign touting Abilify as an "add-on" treatment for depression. For the first time since the arrival of a new generation of antipsychotic medications -- six drugs called the "atypicals" because they work differently from the earlier generation of antipsychotic drugs -- the makers of one, Abilify, had been granted the legal right to market to a vast new population of patients beyond those with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder."

For an explanation of the larger trends in our love affair with prescription drugs, there's this backgrounder from the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation. Note the related links to information on pricing, overall healthcare  costs, the comparison between U.S. and Canadian prices and more...

-- Tami Dennis

Photo: It's not an antipsychotic, but Lipitor is no slouch in the sales department. It led all drugs in sales.

Photo credit: Associated Press

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