Can DTC marketing overcome drug pricing?

imagesKEY TAKEAWAY:  As drugs for many common conditions lose patent protection and face generic competition, branded drug companies increasingly are relying on revenue from drugs for serious and sometimes rare conditions, a class of medicines known as “specialty drugs.” However, these specialty drugs can cost tens of thousands of dollars but in an era of “healthcare consumerism” DTC ads are not going to help overcome sticker shock.

What’s the point of mass-marketing a product meant for a relatively small customer pool? Some of the specialty drugs can cost from $2,000 to more than $12,000 a month. At those prices, winning even a modest number of new patients can make the expense of mass advertising worthwhile, said Mr. Calkins, a professor of marketing at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management who advises healthcare companies on branding strategies.


The idea that DTC ads are going to “put pressure” on insurers to cover the drugs is typical DTC marketing dribble . Insurers are going to cover drugs that work and benefit patients within a reasonable cost.  All over the country millions of insured patients are being switched to lower cost drugs to control costs so where is the outrage?  Patients, for example, who were prescribed Symbacort are being switched to Advair because of cost and although they might like it they know it’s about cost.

Last summer, in around the country qualitative research, I heard the topic of price come up again and again, even when their insurance is paying for it.  DTC ads are not going to overcome high pricing, the only thing that will overcome high pricing are drugs that work while providing a better quality of life for patients.


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