The love affair between drug companies and doctors

Jon Oliver’s Last Week Tonight is back with another excellent investigative report. This time he takes aim at one source of the problem of why health care costs in the US are so high and that is the way that drug companies work with doctors to push people into taking expensive prescription drugs.

I was astonished by the statistic that 70% of Americans take at least one prescription drug and more than 50% take at least two, so that the cost is $1,000 per person per year. Can that be right? After all, we are talking about all Americans, not just adults. Since 23% of the population is under 18, that must mean that practically every single adult is taking them, assuming that very few children do.

Here is just the last part of that report, consisting of a parody add.

Oliver gives a website that tells you what your doctor’s relationship with drug companies is.


  1. DonDueed says

    I think you’re quite naive to think that very few children are taking prescription medications. Drugs for ADHD and other conditions are widely given to children.

  2. smrnda says

    I don’t think 70% really seems that high. Contraception is a prescription drug, and what % of women might be taking some form of prescription contraception? Diabetes is fairly common (regrettably so) along with conditions like high blood pressure. Then we have medication for things like asthma and allergies. Doesn’t seem so high.

    I think a concern is the way that drug companies have taken advantage of using government funding to develop drugs which are then proprietary, so they can make massive profits from them. Another issue is drug companies making new drugs to be replacements for ones which are in the public domain. These newer drugs are often no better than the older ones, but since they are patented, they make more money. Advertising can easily hype these new drugs, and whether rational or not many people will assume new > old and brand name > generic.

  3. Greg P. says

    Try going to a doctor and answering the standard question of “what medicines are you taking?” with “None.” They will express some level of surprise, which is probably a commentary on how uncommon it is to encounter a person who doesn’t take anything. Could also be sampling bias, since doctor’s offices are full of sick people (who probably have at least one prescription).

  4. Mano Singham says

    I actually don’t take any drugs and that may have colored my view that not many people take them (extreme sampling bias!). My physicians have not expressed any surprise though.

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