Oncology DTC

  • In 2018, the National Cancer Institute estimates there will be 1,735,000 new cases of cancer diagnosed in the U.S.
  • During the past 12 months, health care ads have reached 75% of U.S. cancer survivors on television, 54% at doctor’s offices and 40% via magazines.
  • When asked what sources of information they value the most, it’s no surprise that all survivors look primarily to their medical support team (doctors, nurses, pharmacists), medication packaging/labels and family/friends.

As the introduction of new cancer drugs increases pharma companies are turning to DTC ads to inform patients but is this a mistake?

Online information is valued by cancer survivors diagnosed two to five years ago. They are 30% more likely than the average cancer survivor to value information found on online blogs/vlogs, 27% more likely to value online videos, 20% more likely to value drug company/brand website content and 12% more likely to value the dialog in online communities and support groups. (Source: Nielsen)  But this doesn’t tell the whole story.

The demographics for cancer diagnostics skew towards an older, patient and how these patients get information on cancer and drugs to treat it depends on what they are most comfortable with.   Younger, more affluent people are more likely to use the Internet for health information while older patients are more likely to rely on friends, family and HCP’s for their information.

Nielsen says “during the past 12 months, health care ads have reached 75% of U.S. cancer survivors on television, 54% at doctor’s offices and 40% via magazines”.  This is misleading.  Reach does not translate into action and patients suffering with a specific condition, of course, are more likely to pay attention to ads for that condition.

What about Oncology DTC?

Earlier this year I sat in some ad boards and listened to Oncologists talk about oncology DTC.  They felt that while the ads did inform they had to spend additional time educating patients as to when a certain therapy may be right, or not right, for them.  For example Keytruda says “KEYTRUDA is a treatment known as immunotherapy. More specifically, it is a PD-1 checkpoint inhibitor”.  OK and what he hell is a checkpoint inhibitor?

I also heard from oncology patients who repeatedly said that their online journey for health information was overwhelming and hard to understand.

Do oncology DTC ads offer hope or over promise?  Ask an Oncologist who had to tell a patient that an immune therapy products were not the right choice for their patient.

What do cancer patients want?

1ne: Clear and concise, easy to understand, information.

2wo: The cost of treatment.

3hree: Side effects

4our: They want to connect with other patients but don’t trust pharma websites with “patient stories”

Finally, they want encouragement to keep “fighting the battle” as they told us in research.  One patient said “some days are harder than other and I could really use some help getting thru the day”.

If I could have launched a community discussion board on a pharma website almost 15 years ago surely some marketer can do it today.  Stop selling and start helping.