Putting drug profits to bed?

Helen Palmer Mar 15, 2007


SCOTT JAGOW: The FDA is warning about some freaky side effects from prescription sleeping pills like Ambien. They’ve gotten reports of people getting out of bed and driving — while still asleep. Or binge-eating and not remembering it. The reports have increased as sales have increased. Here’s Ashley Milne-Tyte:

ASHLEY MILNE-TYTE: In 2005, U.S. pharmacists filled out 43 million sleeping pill prescriptions — that’s up 32 percent from 2001.

And drug companies raked in $2.7 billion from those sales.

But now that sleeping pill makers must loudly advertise how potentially risky their product is…

MARK RAVERA: I think that maybe across the board, the category as a whole may see some slowing of the growth as a result of this FDA action.

Mark Ravera of Strategic Pharma Consulting Group says it’s not just insomniacs who use sleeping pills now. So do others, like businesspeople who need to catch some shut-eye on the run. He says some may now think again.

He says the FDA is asking companies not just to advise doctors of the pills’ newly assessed risks…

RAVERA: They’re asking companies to make the investment to do the clinical trials to see if their drug is better or worse than the other guy’s.

He says how willing they’ll be to comply is another matter.

In New York, I’m Ashley Milne-Tyte for Marketplace.

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