Abbott Laboratories Doubled Niaspan U.S. Sales Before Trials Cut Use

Published: Jun 11, 2013

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Abbott Laboratories (ABT) aggressively promoted its Niaspan cholesterol treatment, almost tripling U.S. use of the medication, in the seven-year period before studies in 2011 found the drug ineffective, a study found. From 2002 to 2009, niacin and its brand-name counterpart Niaspan, now sold by Abbott’s spinoff company AbbVie Inc. (ABBV), rose 191 percent in the U.S., to 696,000 prescriptions a month. A combination of assertive marketing and stronger medical guidelines for reducing cholesterol levels drove that increase, according to research published today in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine. Abbott and AbbVie boosted Niaspan prices to almost completely offset prescription numbers that fell starting in 2011, according to sales data compiled last month by Bloomberg. Two studies released then and in 2012 found the medicine didn’t help patients and may have hurt them. Price increases helped AbbVie hold on to revenue from the drug even as evidence against it mounted.

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