KEY TAKEAWAY: The NY Times, which has always gone out of their way to attack pharma, now is attacking DTC ads suggesting they drive up health care costs. It is full of innuendos and slanted, but this is the reality and perception that the public has about drug companies.
I used to be a loyal NY Times reader, but over the years their shoddy journalism along with layoffs of good journalists has led me to cancel my subscription. The Times feels that drug companies are an evil in our society and that drugs should essentially be free yet they seldom take the time to really understand how drugs are developed. In the case of this article they don’t even acknowledge that DTC ads lead to higher awareness of health problems and suggest that patients and doctors are so influenced by DTC drugs they will just prescribe them when a patients requests it.
Let’s look at some of the content..
The health care industry spent $14 billion on advertising in 2014, according to Kantar Media, a jump of nearly 20 percent since 2011. That includes over-the-counter medications, but not sponsorships (the Super Bowl had two health care systems as partners). While magazine advertising has dropped off somewhat with the withering of the publishing industry, television advertising has risen 55 percent for hospitals and 30 percent for prescription drugs in that period.
First of all, let me say that NONE of my clients is a Kantar Media customer and most dispute their numbers. Lumping OTC with prescription drug ads is at best a pale comparison. Consumers purchase OTC drugs at THEIR discretion while Rx drugs are subject to a doctor writing an Rx, the insurer allowing the patient to get the medication via coverage and the patient actually filling the Rx.
Health economists and doctors are raising concerns about the trend, which they say increases prices and encourages patients to seek out more expensive and, often, inappropriate treatment.
OK. Increases prices? What about outcomes vs left untreated? Patients are NOT going to blindly going to ask for an advertised drug without doing their homework. Insurers are not going to cover drugs that are the same as generics, but shouldn’t a patient, who is a consumer of healthcare, have the right to chose what drug goes into their body?
That ad recommended a pill called Xifaxin, which costs about $1,850 per month, although gastroenterologists frequently prescribe dietary changes, stress management and over-the-counter pills.
I had relatives who suffered with IBS and let me tell you that dietary changes, stress management and over-the-counter pills don’t work. It’s a terrible health condition that really affects the quality of life. Shouldn’t a patient have the opportunity to at least try it?
The latest research on DTC TV ads, which I recently shared with John Mack, clearly shows that consumers are not running to their doctor to ask for advertised drugs. They are doing their research first. Now, as for DTC marketers love of TV ads? That is a problem because they aren’t providing the ROI they once did.