According to STAT “a drug advertising conference this week in Boston was packed with self-congratulatory sessions celebrating inspiring campaigns. But there was an undercurrent of unease about the prospect of a federal crackdown on pharma commercials”. Despite what you hear or read DTC advertising is not going anywhere.
The DTC industry is too large and benefits patients too much to be legislated out of action. These ideas come from lawmakers who don’t understand that DTC ads actually benefit patients and spur conversations between physicians and patients. However, the drug industry has to stop hiding behind the excuse of drug R&D costs.
It’s hard to justify the high cost of bringing a drug to market when the pharma industry’s profit margin is so high and a lot of new drugs are being brought to market via mergers and acquisitions. The bottom line is that the drug industry has the right to market their products as they please and even if DTC marketing were eliminated tomorrow it would have no effect on drug prices.
Then there are the ads we all see on TV. Too many people really believe that someone is going to see an ad on TV for a prescription drug and run to their doctor for a prescription. That isn’t true today. People go online to read about prescription drugs and more importantly to try and learn if their co-pay is going to be higher. In addition, insurers have a hell of a lot to say about which drugs are prescribed for patients.
DTC ads, at a minimum, educate and inform patients, which is more than their doctors tend to do . The call, from the AMA, for drug companies to add the retail price to ads is misguided and doesn’t reflect reality. Instead, doctors should listen to the feedback from patients who are angry at having to wait for an appointment and be scheduled for, what they feel, are unnecessary tests.
What has to change is the self-congratulatory DTC conferences which only serve to inflate the egos of poor campaign managers . There is a lot of very bad DTC marketing out there, but who cares because the agencies are making money and the DTC managers can add another bullet point to their resumes.