Why can't we just fund R&D from pharmaceutical advertising budgets?

Even if companies could, they won't, for reasons I just explained. But mostly because pharmaceutical advertising budgets aren't really very big. People who think that there is a gigantic pool of capital that could be sucked out of the pharmaceutical advertising budget are being misled by accounting terminology. People who rail against the pharmaceutical industry are fond of noting that about 20% of industry revenues go to marketing, with the implication that this is all wasted on advertising baldness cures during Golden Girls reruns. But just the top ten firms in the pharmaceutical industry took in about $350 billion in revenue in 2007, 20% of which is $70 billion. The entire US expenditure on advertising by all companies in all media forms totaled something like $150 billion in 2007. I know it seems like every other commercial you see is for Botox, but most advertising is not done by pharmaceutical firms.

In fact, advertising is only a small fraction of that marketing expense. Over half of it expense consists of free samples, the offering of which seems to me like an unalloyed public good.

Presented by

Megan McArdle is a columnist at Bloomberg View and a former senior editor at The Atlantic. Her new book is The Up Side of Down.

Never Tell People How Old They Look

Age discrimination affects us all. Who cares about youth? James Hamblin turns to his colleague Jeffrey Goldberg for advice.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Never Tell People How Old They Look

Age discrimination affects us all. James Hamblin turns to a colleague for advice.

Video

Would You Live in a Treehouse?

A treehouse can be an ideal office space, vacation rental, and way of reconnecting with your youth.

Video

Pittsburgh: 'Better Than You Thought'

How Steel City became a bikeable, walkable paradise

Video

A Four-Dimensional Tour of Boston

In this groundbreaking video, time moves at multiple speeds within a single frame.

Video

Who Made Pop Music So Repetitive? You Did.

If pop music is too homogenous, that's because listeners want it that way.

More in Business

Just In