Prescription drug marketing misconceptions

Another TED talk on the evils of prescription drug marketing was filled with misinformation as usual. Today consumers don’t run to their doctor after seeing a DTC ad, they do their research, and in some cases, the ads actually help them identify potential health problems.

It’s been a while since I’ve seen any research on DTC TV ads’ effectiveness, but a couple of years it was estimated that TV ads were 7% effective. Today, that number is even lower because consumers are more likely to do their research instead of blindly asking their doctor for an Rx.

The disconnect between consumers and prescription drug marketing has grown quite a bit. Drug marketers see them as a sales tool to generate new Rx’s, patients see them as a “pain in the ass”.

Over the last five years, I have been privy to a lot of research on the effectiveness of DTC ads, and they all trend the same; they inform and are just a pit stop to learn more about the drug/health condition.

One could make an argument that ads, like the Humira ad, actually have a negative effect when they talk about compromising a patient’s immune system in an era of record COVOD cases.

What about marketing to doctors?

There will always be HCP’s who will follow the money, and the media will always highlight them in stories, but the vast majority of HCP’s don’t buy into drug industry marketing anymore. As the recent buzz around COVID-19 vaccines shows, they want more information before recommending the product.

The other issue is a payment to physicians. Most drug companies limit the amount of money certain doctors can receive, but doctors should be compensated when giving talks to other doctors about the effectiveness of treatments. Physicians listen to other physicians.

Regardless of the products they are selling, every advertiser deals with a skeptical public who checks their claims. Prescription drug marketers are jumping through hoops to convince management that drug advertising is necessary but data is fading. A TV ad can help generate rapid awareness for new drugs, but the line between awareness and action has been elongated and complicated.

Drug marketing is here to stay, but it’s in desperate need of visionaries who can leverage TV to make DTC ads more effective. This included a major rethinking of drug websites that are still stuck in a time warp but eventually will change due to the persistence of good people and patients who want more information.