DTC: Why do doctors fight it?

IN SUMMARY: Physicians continue to push pharma companies to discontinue DTC marketing but is it better or worse for patients?

Listening to an Oncologist, in research, tell us about his experience informing a patient why an advertised drug was not right for him was hard but he didn’t blame the drug company. “The DTC ads are raising awareness which is good but treating cancer today is very complicated and it can be hard for me, as a doctor, to tell a patient that the promise of an advertised drug is not right for them,” he said. “But overall I am finding that most patients who go online are better informed which makes my job easier”.

He is one of the exceptions. Research continues to show that doctors want pharma to reduce their DTC ads but the same research clearly shows that DTC ads help educate and inform patients.

Let’s be clear about something: consumers, in general, are skeptical of any marketers claims. This is especially true in the drug industry. Year over year research continues to show that patients are not running to their doctor to ask for a prescribed medication without doing their homework.

Are doctors afraid of educated patients?

Ah, now we get to the real issue. In a 2017 survey of more than 1,000 physicians on the athenahealth network, six out of ten agreed with the statement, “My visits with patients are often too short for me to answer their questions and treat them effectively.” Along similar lines, earlier research by athenahealth and others shows that primary care doctors are doing more work during each patient encounter, even as appointments have shrunk to 15 minutes or less.

Patients who take an active role and interest in their healthcare have better health outcomes and lower costs but 50 percent of physicians spend just nine to 16 minutes with each patient, according to the 2017 Medscape Physician Compensation Report.

Patients also don’t want to be talked down to. They want to partner with their doctor when it comes to treatment(s) and want to better understand cause and effect. While Dr. Google is always open the Internet has become a vast wasteland of inaccurate health information.

DTC ads are effective in raising awareness of new drugs and treatments but don’t think for a minute that people are requesting new drugs without doing their research. Doctors need to accept this and think of ways to better enhance the relationship with patients.