Keytruda ads promise a lot

“Sharon was given a few months to live. One year later, she’s here to tell her story”.  That’s the headline of the print ad for Merck’s Keytruda and Oncologists are not happy with it.

Recently, during some research, I had the opportunity to talk with a leading Oncologist in the Pittsburg area.  I specifically wanted to hear his thoughts on the cancer DTC ads that were airing on TV and he was not happy.  “The ads are promising too much . I have patients who are demanding certain treatments even though they don’t meet the criteria for treatment”.  He specifically pointed to the Keytruda ad in a magazine (see below).

“Now I’m the one who has to explain to a patient that this treatment may not be for them and even if it is I have to try and set realistic expectations” he continued.  I asked him if the ads were “too aggressive” to which he replied “absolutely”.

“Look, we would love to be able to tell patients that this treatment is going to allow them to live a lot longer, but that’s not what the product label says based on the company’s own clinical data. These ads have to set realistic expectations , but even before that idea they have to be a lot clearer on the criteria to be a candidate for treatment”.

John Mack, the Pharmaguy, has been critical of these ads as well, but my feeling has been of they give patients hope then maybe they are OK.  That may be the wrong and it could lead to unrealistic expectations and anger for what patients feel are misleading ads.

The FDA should take action here to benefit patients.  This means communicating realistic data and expectations with new oncology drugs.  Drug companies also need to clearly communicate that in order to qualify for these treatments, certain treatment guidelines have to be met.  I mean in bold headline, not in sub headlines.

If I were on the DTC team I would be impressed by the headline in these ads, but I would also ensure that we take in depth measures to make patients understand the realistic expectations of treatment.

What do you think??

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