Big Pharma – Pill Pushers

January 4, 2008 at 3:55 pm (Alternative Medicine, Big Pharma, Homeopathic Remedies, Homeopathy, Supplements) (, , , , , , , , , , )

Thanks to the magic of, I learnt from David Colquhoun’s blog that Marc-André Gagnon and Joel Lexchin have (through The Public Library of Science) published a paper1 on the ‘Pharmaceutical Promotion Expenditures in the United States’. The page is here and the PDF is here.

The authors’ conclusion begins “From this new estimate, it appears that pharmaceutical companies spend almost twice as much on promotion as they do on R&D”. The authors also note that the amount spent on promotion “confirms the public image of a marketing-driven industry”. While this is undoubtedly a Bad Thing, I wonder what the ratio of R&D:Marketing would be for, say, homeopathy. Or herbal remedies. Or food supplements. See here for the low-down on the market value of these CAM remedies. Unfortunately, I have no information on the R&D spending. Gimpy, however, does.

UPDATE: I have made a comparison of two firms using R&D costs as a percentage of net sales (not of R&D versus marketing costs, unfortunately – I haven’t been able to find that info yet).  2005: DSM nutritional products spent 80m euros on R&D – 4.2% of net sales (1,914m euros). 2007: Takeda Pharmaceutical Company Limited and Subsidiaries spent 193,301 million yen on R&D and received 1,305,167m yen from their net sales (14.8% of net sales). If any herbal remedy or food supplement manufacturers want to send details of their R&D costs versus marketing costs, then please feel free to email me at

UPDATE 2: Ben Goldacre’s miniblog features a link to ScienceBusiness and a Financial Times readers letter on grants for homeopathic R&D. The link to ScienceBusiness piece is here and includes the following quote:

The expert’s advice says that, when it comes to tax credits, HM Revenue & Customs “defines the R&D that qualifies for tax relief as directly contributing to achieving an advance in science or technology through the resolution of scientific or technological uncertainty. Therefore R&D can’t be seen as solely benefiting your business; it must be proven to be breaking new ground.”

The SB article then points out that:

There is not much uncertainty about homoeopathy in the minds of most scientists. It is “snake oil” through and through. This does not, though, prevent some universities from climbing aboard the “alternative therapy” bandwagon, much to the chagrin of many researchers who should know what they are talking about..”

Improbable Science and Holford Watch, have blogged about the involvement of Universities with the Alt Health bandwagon. Several universities offer courses in alternative therapies and some even offer Associate Professorships to media nutritionists.
1. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0050001


  1. Big quacka spend 18.5 times more on marketing than research, big pharma only twice as much « gimpy’s blog said,

    […] by gimpy on January 4, 2008 JDC has an interesting post up comparing the marketing costs with R&D for big pharma. Almost twice as much it seems which […]

  2. Ces said,

    Check this out! The ultimate tell all book!

  3. Ces said,

    Pill Pushers: A Big Pharma Battle For Market Share

  4. jdc325 said,

    Thanks for the literary spam Ces – it made a nice change from online gambling sites. ;)

    “Pill Pushers: A Big Pharma Battle for Market Share is a fast-paced, fictional thriller that has been given an injection of truth from two Big Pharma insiders.”
    Spooky. I was going to write the same sort of thing myself – but for the food supplement industry.

  5. Journey through a Burning Mind » Bad Science: How Homeopaths Misrepresent the Evidence said,

    […] To put this in perspective, the Big Pharma (so often accused of too much advertising) spends half as much in research than in marketing (1:2). Obviously, Boiron has a marked interest in presenting homeopathy as a […]

  6. Seborgarsen said,

    lol, I loved the spam-bot.

    Now, I would love to see a study on the money trail in big quaka, I know for a fact that the Steiner cult have their own bank that supports the building of quack hospitals in africa, the Steriner homeopathy kind, biodynamic horse shit (it is) and such. How much of Boiron, Weleda et al’s money are channeled through these banks and into dubious projects in the 3rd world?

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