Can DTC ads lead to action?

UnknownKEY TAKEAWAY: Awareness of new healthcare treatments is not always enough to lead to action.  Pharma DTC marketers need to develop a decision tree and test possible calls to action to determine what will actually drive patients to ask about healthcare treatments.

Two weeks ago I went to my local Rite-Aid to get a Shingles vaccination.  Much to my surprise the pharmacist informed me that my insurer would not cover the vaccination until I consulted with my doctor.  As an informed patient I knew the risks, yet here is my insurer throwing up another barrier to prevention of a very painful condition.  Welcome to healthcare in the 21st century.

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If the maker of the Shingles vaccine had done more to let me know that my doctor needed to be involved I probably would have asked her rather than going to my local Rite-Aid which is a lot more convenient.  Every day, barriers are being erected to requesting advertised prescription drugs, yet DTC marketers still keep throwing mud against the fan in hopes some of it will stick.

Rather than attend a wealth of DTC conferences DTC marketers probably should spend more time acting like patients to better understand the barriers that most patients have to face when requesting prescription drugs.

Recently an MS patient tried to request an expensive drug from Biogen but her insurer, before approving, tried to make her doctor fill out tons of forms to justify the cost of the drug.  At the end of her rope and in despair, her doctor finally called her insurer direct and threatened them with malpractice.  But how many doctors are willing to do this?

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The bottom line is that DTC ads are less effective because the power of insurers and changes to the healthcare law have made it harder for patients to request branded Rx drugs.  The best creative in the world is not going to overcome numerous barriers that make patients say “the hell with it, my current treatment is fine”.

Think like a patient and remove barriers is more important than awareness today.