Critical Thinking Within Pharma DTC: Help Wanted

Pharma is addicted to DTC TV ads, even when it doesn’t make sense. When your product has a list of side effects that would scare even an HCP, it’s time to say, “Maybe mass-market TV isn’t the way to go. Today, you can laser target patients online versus the mass market.

Abbvie has been running TV ads for Vraylar, a drug used for bipolar and major depressive depressive disorder. Most will turn to the website for more information and read safety information, which is scary. Vraylar may cause stroke and neuroleptic malignant syndrome along with uncontrolled body movements. And that’s just the top three warnings.

So, what was Abbvie thinking? Well, they probably have market research showing that their TV ads were effective, but they don’t have research that can measure the target audience’s reaction to going to the website and reading the fair balance. I wouldn’t need research to tell me that the potential side effects far outweigh the possible benefits in patients’ and caregivers’ minds.

There are so many support groups for both conditions that using mass-market TV ads doesn’t make sense. An estimated 2.8% of U.S. adults had bipolar disorder in the past year. Past year prevalence of bipolar disorder among adults was similar for males (2.9%) and females (2.8%) that’s about 6 million Americans. That’s a pretty small target audience.

The prevalence of major depressive episodes among U.S. adults aged 18 or older in 2021. An estimated 21.0 million adults in the United States had at least one major depressive episode. This number represented 8.3% of all U.S. adults. OK, that increases the target audience, but with so many other treatments out there with fewer side effects, how many would consider Vraylar?

Pharma DTC people are great at showing management data that indicates their DTC is working. Still, they’re not measuring many behaviors, such as “how many people read the fair balance and decide the drug is too risky?” Has anyone on the DRTC team mentioned that the potential side effects should limit the scope of the ads?

Specific skills have proven themselves timeless and indispensable within pharma. Perhaps none are as crucial as critical thinking skills. Defined as the ability to analyze, evaluate, and synthesize information to make reasoned judgments and decisions, critical thinking transcends industries and job roles. It is the cornerstone of problem-solving, innovation, and effective decision-making. Within this DTC team, critical thinking may have gone out the window in favor of marketing budgets and TV ads.

Every DTC marketing decision carries weight and consequences. Critical thinking empowers employees to make informed decisions by gathering pertinent information, evaluating alternatives, and foreseeing potential outcomes. By sidestepping cognitive biases and emotional impulses, critical thinkers are better equipped to make sound judgments that align with organizational objectives and yield favorable results.

It seems that critical thinking within Abbvie has left the building.