Will the FDA ever get DTC guidelines right?

There was a time when people would run off to their doctor to ask for an advertised prescription drug.  Those days are pretty much over.  Today, as research continually shows, people do their homework before asking about a prescription drug and with so many drugs being marketed for the same health conditions, many people are just not willing to go through the hassle of switching meds unless there is a clear benefit or lower cost.

Fair balance within TV ads is a waste of time and money.  What the FDA fails to understand is that patients are smart enough to do their homework BEFORE requesting an advertised drug.  Today DTC ads drive people online to learn more before driving them to their doctor to ask about/for the medication.

A lot of the consulting that I do is to provide brands with a dashboard around social media conversations with implications and reach.  The conversations are happening and a lot of them are based on inaccurate information, but too many drug companies are staying out of the conversation because they are afraid of repercussions from the FDA.  The idea that drug companies need to provide fair balance on social media is dated.  It should be one click away.

Two months ago, in research, I heard that online health seekers still use the safety page on drug websites, but the problem, but they also complained that the safety information was too long and too hard to read.  When asked “where do you go for drug side effects” the prominent answer was “social media”.  We asked about the credibility of health information within social media and online health seekers were basically split.  Some said they trust the info, but would do more research while others said they would use what’s being said to help them make treatment decisions.

Drug companies owe it to online health seekers to be part of the query for health information online.  By providing credible sources of health information and talking to patients one-on-one they can start down the road to earning trust.

The FDA needs to recruit DRG Research to come in and present their data so they can better understand the real world factors that influence patients’ health choices.  Until they do, guidelines will continue to remain stuck in the past.

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