In 1997, the FDA opened the flood gates on direct-to-consumer advertising, thus allowing drugmakers to promote their products on television. DTC has raised awareness of disease and prompted consumers to talk to their doctor about often sensitive topics, but it has also aroused some controversy.

In a recent editorial, Ian Spatz, a former vice president for global health policy at Merck, says doctors feel pressured to prescribe the drugs patients request. And critics say the ads push consumer to ask their doctors for expensive branded drugs, driving up the cost of healthcare.

He suggests drugmakers collaborate on disease-focused campaigns that raise awareness of certain conditions and urge patients to talk to their doctors for treatment options. Doing so would cut companies' advertising budgets, end the ridiculous laundry list of frightening side effects mandated by the FDA, and deliver important information to patients.

While TV proved the dominant medium for DTC in the early 2000s, things might be changing, as Gregory Aston pointed out recently in a blog post for Marketing: Health. In 2010, TV investment fell 17 percent, more than twice the rate of the total category. GSK and six other major pharmaceutical companies significantly reduced their TV investment. Meanwhile, there was a growth seen print (plus 13 percent in 2010, Aston points out). He doesn't see this as a surprise, as it is a tried and tested method to getting the industry's point across.


DTC advertising

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Pfizer's Lyrica team matches the spokesman to the message

Many pharma companies create DTC efforts around a branded product, but plenty of drugmakers go the disease education route, too. So when is the right time to use each? That all depends on the population a pharma is trying to reach, and as Pfizer found recently, sometimes they can be used simultaneously to get targeted messages across to different patient groups.

Mr. Mucus med Mucinex recalled on labeling snafu

Reckitt Benckiser recalled about 1.5 million bottles of the cold medicine Mucinex--the brand repped by the love-or-hate character Mr. Mucus--because of labeling errors.

How to make sure DTC doesn't turn off patients? Ask them to tailor your ads

Big Pharma's ads for branded meds generally try to impart inspirational messages and are meant to educate patients about a particular brand, helping them feel more connected to a company or product. But consumers aren't feeling the love, according to a new study from patient advocacy network Wego Health Solutions.

Merck aims for double payoff with new diabetes education push

With Januvia contributing billions in critical revenue, Merck has backed its fair share of diabetes education and awareness efforts. But with its latest, the company may give vaccine sales a boost, too.

DTC ad viewers really do ask their doctors about new meds, survey finds

Almost one-quarter (21%) of respondents in a recent survey said they talk to a doctor about a drug or treatment after watching a TV ad. The survey, taken by pharma analytics firm on its website, found that an additional 5.8% suggest the treatment to someone else after viewing an ad.

Next DTC push for Linzess: Spotlight patients, with big salesforce backup

With Actavis and Ironwood's first DTC campaign for GI med Linzess, the goal was to help patients identify irritable bowel syndrome with constipation (IBS-C) and chronic idiopathic constipation (CIC) by clearly communicating the symptoms. Now that the team is back with its sophomore DTC effort, the goal is to encourage patients to find a solution to their problems. A branded, prescription solution.

Does pricier mean better to ad consumers? FDA means to find out

The FDA wants to know how price comparisons in advertising affect people's perceptions of drug quality. The agency's Office of Prescription Drug Promotion is planning a new study to assess how diabetes patients and their doctors react to direct-to-consumer advertisements that feature price info.

The 2014 DTC ads that made the grade

Any opinions about which new direct-to-consumer TV ads worked best last year? Check yours against the top 10 curated by  Medical Marketing & Media.

Were Low-T ads 'disease mongering'? Two experts say yes

A couple of geriatrics experts have joined the chorus of recommendations against testosterone therapy. But they're going a step further. They say drugmakers' enthusiastic advertising--which happened to be effective, too--was actually disease-mongering.

Pharma's ad spend vaults to $4.5B, with big spender Pfizer leading the way

Suspicions are confirmed: Pharma's spending on ads took a flying leap last year. By Kantar Media's numbers, direct-to-consumer ad spend hit $4.53 billion in 2014, up about 18% from $3.83 billion in 2013.