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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Latest Headlines

Glaxo OTC chief: When it comes to consumer health, pharma has the edge

Lately, pharma companies have dominated the over-the-counter drug rankings, capturing the top 7 spots in the field and taking pure-play consumer companies down a notch. And according to Emma Walmsley, the CEO of GlaxoSmithKline and Novartis' consumer health JV, that should come as no surprise.

Novartis backs DC Comics graphic novel starring rare-disease hero and his canine sidekick

Batman and Superman can add another superhero to their ranks at publisher DC Comics, and that's Scott. The teenage protagonist and his trusty sidekick--Turbo the toy dog--feature in the company's latest graphic novel, which Novartis partnered to create for teens with tuberous sclerosis complex.

Not so fast, Hillary. Ad industry will fight with pharma against DTC tax moves

Hillary Clinton's plan to take away drugmakers' advertising tax deductions gets a resounding "no" from ad industry trade groups. While the ad executives aren't taking a stance on the rest of Clinton's drug-pricing plan, the advertising proposal gets a thumbs down.

Fretting about potential Humira pain for AbbVie? Take heart in potential cost cuts

Some industry-watchers foresee biosimilars gutting Humira sales not too far into the future, though maker AbbVie disagrees. If that scenario does play out, though? The Illinois pharma has room to pare down its marketing expenses, according to one analyst.

Apple's ad blocking heats up debate, but what does it mean for pharma?

Last week, Apple stirred a long-simmering controversy into a raging debate: It unveiled ad blocking in its newest operating system. iPhone and iPad users of iOS 9 can now quickly and easily download blocking software to knock out ad units including display and banner ads, pop-up ads and autoplay videos.

Pharma TV ads are good for the business bottom line, study says

While pharma critics often complain about too much TV advertising, a new study says it might be money well spent--for companies and their shareholders, at least.

Janssen's new Prezcobix push urges HIV patients to share pics with their docs

Say cheese, bus shelter ad. Janssen's Prezcobix campaign advocates a new way for potential patients to talk to their doctors: Snap a picture and share it.

BMS revives Orencia DTC advertising after two-year absence

An old drug with a new trick? We'll see. After a long DTC hiatus, Bristol-Myers Squibb is taking a new tack with advertising its rheumatoid arthritis drug Orencia. The campaign for the decade-old drug emphasizes long-term relief and uses the new tagline, "See your RA in a different way."

Allergan plots Namzaric DTC campaign to shore up its Namenda defenses

DTC advertising drove a double-digit jump for Allergan's facial aesthetic business last quarter. And with generics now pouncing on blockbuster Namenda, the company is hoping it can repeat that ad-campaign success for its new Alzheimer's treatment.

Surprise! It's a DTC campaign for Sanofi and MannKind's Afrezza

There's been lots of hullaballoo surrounding Sanofi and MannKind's launch of inhaled insulin Afrezza, but for the arrival of the pair's first DTC campaign? Not so much.