Memo to media: stop citing numbers without indexing them

I saw this article from Big Pharma spent an additional $9.8 billion on marketing in the past 20 years. It worked

In 1997, drug companies spent roughly $17.1 billion on marketing for prescription drugs and any health conditions that may be associated with them. (A relatively paltry $600 million was spent to market condition awareness, health services, and lab testing.) By 2016, that figure was $26.9 billion. Simultaneously, total US spending on prescription drugs skyrocketed from $116.4 billion to $329 billion.

People assume that a site like QZ would be reputable given its sparse layout and the absence of clickbait headlines, but even it makes elementary reasoning errors.

Without indexing these numbers to some sort of benchmark, like GDP, inflation, overall ad spending, etc. they do not prove what the author or headline implies or suggests. Yes, $10 billion is a lot, but 20 years is a long time. The US economy and population has grown a lot since 1997; we would expect spending to increase. In fact US GDP grew from $8.5 trillion in 1997 to $19 trillion in 2016, so an increase of $17 billion to $27 billion is actually less than predicted by GDP growth alone (59% increase vs 123% for GDP).