Cancer DTC: confusing or helpful?

KEY TAKEAWAY:According to surprisingly, huge numbers of cancer patients lack basic information, such as how long they can expect to live, whether their condition is curable or why they’re being prescribed chemotherapy or radiation, said Dr. Rab Razzak, director of outpatient palliative medicine at Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore.  The result: People with advanced cancer don’t know enough about their disease to make informed decisions about treatment or how they want to spend their remaining time.  But is the new DTC for Oncology products, adding to the confusion?

According to Pfizer’s ad for Ibrance “Ibrance is the #1 prescribed, FDA-approved oral combination treatment for women with HR+, HER2- MBC”.  While Pfizer goes on to say, on their website,hormone receptor positive (HR+), HER2- is the most common subtype of breast cancer, representing roughly 73% of all cases”. The website does little to really talk to patients as individual patients and does nothing to alleviate the worry of these patients.

Let’s be clear about something; DTC marketing, including product websites, is adding to the confusion of cancer patients and forcing them to spend more time online .  I found this out during research last year as cancer patients and caregivers said that the online environment of health information is very confusing.

Where DTC can REALLY make an impact

Not long ago our group was hired to test patient information packets that would be given to patients by their Oncologists at the point of care.  Included in the packet would have been an interactive DVD as well as a magazine on the best way to live with a cancer diagnosis.  It tested very well with both Oncologists and patients but eventually was killed because of cost.

We also tested an interactive app that could be used while patients were receiving their therapy.  Patients could use a touch screen to learn about their treatment (how it works) and even view relaxing video and music content.  The Oncology nurses loved it and some patients even asked for it after viewing the first time.

All this tells me that there is a major opportunity to reach patients at the point of care with branding materials focused on patient needs.  It can be more effective than TV, but then again, it’s not as glamorous and doesn’t focus on acquiring new patients, rather it focuses on the patient journey with the brand.

The FDA is studying whether doctors understand the risks of products as presented in DTC.  The Oncologists I spoke to basically said “who the hell cares!” and thought it was a complete waste of time.  If Oncology is the next frontier in DTC marketing a new, fresh, really patient centered approach is needed.



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