Drugs with big ad budgets and misinformation

What happened to journalists that actually think? The latest is “fewer than one-third of the most common drugs featured in direct-to-consumer television advertising were rated as having high therapeutic value.” Really? Did they ever think patients have a choice about what’s considered “therapeutic value”?

Salon magazine said, “despite the flashy music and slick production values, the drugs promoted on TV typically aren’t even that special compared to generics or other medications.” Uh, no.

The idea that patients decide what drugs they want is myopic; insurers and PBMs decide. As for therapeutic value what makes the author thin that the advertised drugs are actually the ones that patients get? There is a long ditance between awareness and actually receiving the advertised drug. Many people will get a generic drug if their insurers dictate and do a LOT of research before getting ANY Rx.

As for therapeutic value, patents decide what has therapeutic value, not HCPs or commercials. When I was on the Cialis launch team I heard first hand how ED can affect relationships and cause lasting damage even though many would say an ED drug has low therapeutic value.

The authors do have a point, however, about the “me too” and “new and improved drugs” that are being launched. Humira coming off patent? No problem lets replace it with a new and improved version.

Unfortunately pharma’s business model requires that older, big revenue drugs be replaced by newer drugs that can rake in revenue. However, insurers are getting more picky about what they cover and what they won’t cover. They have more power and, by the way, are making a lot more money.

DTC advertising has to acknowledge a fact that the days of people seeing an ad for a drug and running to their doctor to ask for the drug are declining rapidly. Today it’s research online and follow the suggestion of theit doctor and hope that insurance covers it.

Salon does say “a good deal of research suggests that there can be positive benefits to seeing ads like these, such as encouraging some patients to take a more active role in their health. Patients may request a new medication they heard about that may improve their condition. Or it could alert them to a side effect they should be aware of. Pharma ads may even ease stigma of certain conditions like mental illness or sexual dysfunction.”

One client asked me why, after their market research showed high awarness with their target audience, their DTC was not driving new Rxs. I did some reserach and plotted the consumer journey. It showed that some big name insurers required higher co-pays and that physicians were not “sold” that the new drug was better than drugs already on the market.

DTC is changing and is moving from mass market to micromarketing. Do DTC marketers undersrand that?