Mostly DTC don’t work

QUICK READ: According to Fierce Pharma “mostly because DTC works. Study after study finds that patients follow the well-worn DTC advice and actually “ask your doctor” about a condition or a specific medicine after they’ve seen ads for a prescription drug on TV or online”. Uh…no

According to Fierce Pharma

“A DRG study found that among patients who saw digital ads for drugs, 42% requested a specific prescription from their doctors, while 22% of people who saw TV ads did the same. Another study, by Wharton and University of Southern California professors, estimated that for every 10% increase in advertising exposure, there was a corresponding increase in the number of prescriptions purchased by about 5%”.

There is just one problem. The studies quoted were done in 2018 and 2017. I can make one hell of an argument that these studies are no longer valid because too much has changed. When polls show that pharma’s reputation is below that of our government there is no way that anyone is going to see an ad for a prescription drug and run to their doctor to ask for an Rx.

Today people who are interested in a new prescription drug go online for more information and while a drug company website is a stop along the way clickstream analysis clearly shows online health seekers go to several websites to collect information. My analysis of Twitter searches also shows that more people are searching for branded prescription drugs to see what other patients have to say.

The other part of the article I take to task is “Steven Woloshin, M.D., a professor at Dartmouth Medical School, explained, as pharma advertising shifts from TV to digital, media budgets might actually drop—TV commercials are much more expensive than digital ad placements—as reach expands because consumers are exposed to more mobile and digital messages”.

So what’s wrong here? Well first running the same digital ads over and over again doesn’t get results. Second, developing and testing digital ads can be just as expensive as TV ads.

I have read studies that say DTC ads are becoming less effective and the research we have conducted comes to the same conclusions. It may raise awareness but in an era of “fake news”, higher co-pays and nasty side effects pharma marketers who are throwing more money into digital believe in the tooth fairy.