DTC and online health seekers

  • Patients, today, have a lot of choices when it comes to Rx medications.
  • They spend a lot of time online comparing treatments.
  • Social media is playing a bigger role, however while patients seek out other patients, because of their experiences, they usually require more information.
  • Online health seekers use multiple online health websites to get the information they need they only go to pharma websites for information on a specific product.

I have been reviewing study information from a large quantitative study of online health seekers (n=5677). [inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””]The topline findings indicate that pharma DTC is becoming less effective in patient decisions and that pharma websites are failing to engage online health seekers.[/inlinetweet] Here are some deep dives..

1ne: When it comes to medications for specific conditions patients have a lot of choices, but pharma companies are missing the mark on a compelling reason to choose theirs. An exception is Janssen’s DTC ads for Tremfya which takes direct aim at Humira and thus gives patients a real basis for switching.

2wo: Online health seekers still complain that “they have to spend too much time online looking for the health information they need”.  They usually go to multiple websites and there is a direct correlation between the seriousness of their health condition and the time they spend online.

3hree:[inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””] When asked to rate pharma websites on “meeting their health information needs (1-doesn’t meet my needs at all, 10- Meets my need) the overall rating was a 4.[/inlinetweet]

4our: Social media is becoming a bigger part of the search for online health information, but, between people demonizing pharma or complaining, online health seekers said “it takes a while to get the information I need”.

5ive: [inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””]Online health seekers are turning to medical sites, usually targeted at HCP’s, for information, but often have to ask more questions to understand the context.[/inlinetweet]

6ix: DTC (TV) was not mentioned as an important factor for asking for or using a prescription drug with the vast majority (66%) saying they “were ineffective”.[inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””]  However, when it comes to awareness of new treatments (74%) said they learn about via a TV ad.[/inlinetweet]


Online health can be a deep and complex world for patients looking to better understand their health treatment options.  While the issue of cost did come up it wasn’t as important for people with health insurance, although we were surprised to hear people say “even though it’s covered by my health insurance I still want to know the co-pay”.

[inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””]Pharma companies seem to be losing the content battle.  Although metrics for overall visitors may be a decent time on site, pages read at bounce rates indicate there is room for major improvement to engage patients. [/inlinetweet]

[inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””]TV DTC is still great at raising awareness, but there is a serious disconnect between awareness and asking for/about an advertised product.[/inlinetweet]