DTC advertising benefits consumers

  • DTC advertising is designed to provide scientifically-accurate information to patients so that they are better informed about their health care and treatment options.
  • There is never any requirement or obligation for physicians to prescribe a particular medication, as was confirmed by 91 percent of physicians in FDA’s survey.
  • Beyond increasing patient awareness of disease (including undiagnosed conditions) and available treatments, DTC advertising has been found to increase awareness of the benefits and risks of new medicines and encourage appropriate use of medicines.
  • In addition, DTC encourages patients to visit their doctors’ offices for important doctor-patient conversations about health that might otherwise not take place.

I respect Bernie Sanders but a lot of his wrath against drug companies is misguided.  I agree that nobody in our country should go without treatment because they can’t afford their medication but despite the media attention a vast majority of patients don’t have that problem.  Once again, politicians, who want to remain popular with voters, are saying that DTV ads should be banned.  That’s a mistake.

DTC ads raise awareness and act as a catalyst for discussions between patients and doctors and drive consumers to into their doctor .  Unfortunately for pharma, however, is that DTC ads seem to be less effective in getting patients an Rx for the advertised drug (less than 7%).

So what’s going on?

1ne: Patients have a lot of options when choosing treatments.

2wo: Insurers can make one medication more attractive by offering lower co-pays.

3hree: Coupons help but recent media attention on the real cost of the coupons is reducing their attractiveness.

4our: Most pharma websites don’t give current patients compelling reasons to switch medications.

The other issue is that DTC effectiveness varies widely by health condition .  People with MS, for example, spend more time online researching treatment options than most other health problems.

DTC is a benefit to patients but cutting DTC is NOT going to lower drug prices.   In fact, I’ll go one step further and say that fair balance in DTC TV ads is a waste.   Over the last 2-3 weeks I have been finishing up a research project for a client and the vast majority of people who have seen DTC TV spots don’t pay attention to fair balance , they go online to learn more and visit the safety page on a product’s website.

The area where pharma seems to consistently be losing the connection with their target audience is product websites.  People don’t find them useful beyond basic product information and find no compelling reason to revisit the sites.  However, the information on pharma websites was found to be very credible, even though most said it was “hard to understand”.

If pharma really wants to “connect” with patients they need to deliver better content and update their websites so they don’t look like a product brochure.  Investing in a better online experience will yield better results and bring patients into the fold.

 

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