The U.S. pharmaceutical industry is among the most profitable sectors of the nation's otherwise lagging economy. It's also one of the few bright spots on the international trade scene. But an increasing number of consumer advocates, as well as some lawmakers, say that many prescription drugs are becoming so costly they are beyond the reach of those they could help. Condemning pharmaceutical companies for spending as much marketing their products as they do inventing new ones, the critics say it is time for the federal government to step in and regulate drug prices. Drug manufacturers contend that their products not only help lower medical costs by preventing costly hospitalization and surgery but also reduce the toll in human suffering.