Monday, September 10, 2012

Commonly Used Pharmaceuticals and Top Money Makers

The Verbal Herbal is back and this week I would like to discuss pharmaceuticals. I feel like they have such a huge impact on our health and wellbeing, both in a positive and a negative way. Today I would like to give an overview of the top 10 most common pharmaceuticals used today and the top 10 pharmaceuticals that bring in the most money. It’s interesting to think that the drugs that are most commonly prescribed are not the ones that are bringing in the most money. This difference is due to name brand drugs vs. generic drugs. This, I feel, is a topic that deserves some discussion.
The Patent Act of 1952
The Patent Act of 1952 allows inventors to purchase a patent on new inventions, including machines, processes and pharmaceuticals. This means that other individuals cannot make, sell or import said patented invention until the patent expires which is 20 years from the filing date.
The Drug Price Competition and Patent Term Restoration Act of 1984
The Drug Price Competition and Patent Term Restoration Act of 1984 also known as the “Hatch-Waxman Act” was set in motion to urge new development of new drugs while also speeding up the introduction of generic drugs. Once a drug has been approved for a patent, it must go through research and development to prove that it is safe and effective for public consumption and, therefore, become FDA certified. This can take years to do and millions of dollars in research. So to benefit the companies, this act extends the patent time between the original patent date and the date of FDA approval, up to 5 years can be restored and the remaining term of the restored patent cannot exceed 14 years. This gives the company monopoly over that drug until the patent expires, allowing them to charge as much as they want for that drug in order to cover the cost of research and make a profit.

Once the patent expires, other companies can produce that drug at a fraction of the cost hence generic brands of drugs. But because there is a different manufacturer, the drug still needs to be FDA approved. Previously, companies were forced to provide their own research proving safety and efficacy to the FDA. The Hatch-Waxman Act allowed FDA approval of generic drugs based on previous research done by the original company. With no new research needed to prove safety, generic forms of name brand drugs quickly hit the market once patents expire. Overall this Act tries to balance out the wellbeing of the public by providing low cost generic drugs while still providing proper compensation to companies.
Top 10 Money Makers in 2011
Now that we have established the difference between name brand and generic drugs, let’s look at the list the top 10 leading brands of pharmaceuticals worldwide and how much money was made in sales in 2011. These are name brand drugs that cost a lot of money to the patient and insurance companies and make the pharmaceutical companies billions. Data was taken from an IMS Health study.
Brand Name
Generic Name
$ in Billions
1.       Lipitor
helps to decrease cholesterol
2.       Plavix
a blood thinner
3.       Seretide
asthma inhaler
4.       Crestor
helps to decrease cholesterol
5.       Nexium
for gastroesophageal reflux
6.       Seroquel
for issues relating to mental illness such as schizophrenia or bipolar

7.       Humira
an injection for auto-immune disorders
8.       Enbrel
an injection for auto-immune disorders
9.       Remicade
an injection for auto-immune disorders
10.   Ambilify
for issues relating to mental illness such as schizophrenia or bipolar

Top 10 Most Prescribed Drugs in America
Next, I would like to talk about the top 10 most prescribed drugs in America. It represents common issues among Americans. The “number of prescriptions” that is listed, is taken from an IMS Health study of 2010.
Generic name
Brand Name of patent that expired
Number of prescriptions in millions
1.       Hydrocodone with acetaminophen
An opioid for pain
2.       Simvastatin
A statin for high cholesterol
3.       Lisinopril
ACE inhibitor for high blood pressure
4.       Levothyroxine sodium
A thyroid hormone for low-functioning thyroid
5.       Amlodipine besylate
Calcium channel blocker for high blood pressure
6.       Omeprazole
Proton pump inhibitor for acid reflux
7.       Azithromycin
8.       Amoxicillin
9.       Metformin HCL
For diabetes
10.   Hydrochlorothiazide
Diuretic for high blood pressure

The Problem with Pharmaceuticals
Pharmaceuticals are used as a first line of defense: you go to the doctor, you have high blood pressure, and the doctor puts you on pharmaceuticals for the rest of your life. While I am not saying that they are completely unneeded, I feel that other step should be taken first before you are doomed to take prescriptions for the rest of your life. First, make lifestyle changes. Diet and exercise are the most common ways to solve the problem, but sometimes it’s as easy as getting more sleep, drinking more water or getting a massage every once and a while.  Next, try supplements. Herbs, vitamins and minerals can all be used to help alleviate or correct the problem. If you try everything and still nothing works, then it’s time to go on pharmaceuticals. If you are already on long term pharmaceuticals and would like to try other alternatives, you need to consult your doctor. This is not something you should do on your own because many drugs require weaning off of them while monitoring your blood levels.
After taking a look at the data provided today, this week I would like to address some of the trends in data, providing natural alternatives to some of the more commonly used pharmaceuticals.

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