Follow the Money: Acne Medicines

Kristen Sparrow • September 16, 2013


woman doctor
Meeting with another Sales Rep? No thanks.

When the American Academy of Pediatrics endorsed guidelines recommending expensive prescription drugs to treat childhood acne, it didn’t tell doctors this: 13 of the 15 experts who drafted the guidelines were paid consultants or speakers for companies that market the drugs recommended in the guidelines.
Or this: The organization that developed the guidelines — paid the academy to publish them — received 98% of its 2011 revenue from companies that make acne drugs.
The guidelines recommend prescription drugs that cost as much as $1,700 for a year’s treatment. By contrast, benzoyl peroxide, an effective over-the-counter product that is a primary component in some of the prescription drugs, costs less than $80 a year.
In 2012, the top five prescription acne drugs racked-up $1 billion in U.S. sales, according to the drug-market research firm IMS Health.
“Does it make me suspicious?” asked Catherine DeAngelis, MD, a professor of pediatrics at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and former editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association. “Are you kidding?
“The basis for these guidelines seems to be marketing, not science.”