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

Latest Headlines

Latest Headlines

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.

Sanofi and MannKind launch Afrezza DTC ad campaign in stealth mode

Surprise! It's a DTC campaign for Sanofi and Mannkind's Afrezza. The low-key ad launch of "Surprise, It's Insulin" came with little fanfare, unlike the media and industry scuttlebutt surrounding the drug itself, which has been closely watched and analyzed for more than a year.

Last blast? New Amgen TV ad spotlights Neulasta delivery just months before patent expiration

Amgen is giving Neulasta its first TV advertising push in years--just months before its patent expires. But there's a case to be made for promoting the biologic this late in the game. 

Sanofi Pasteur drafts Bollywood star to talk up flu shots in India

For celebrity campaigns in the U.S., pharma often goes to Hollywood. In India, it's Bollywood--and Sanofi Pasteur is doing just that. The Sanofi vaccines venture tapped popular actor and director Farhan Akhtar to launch its latest flu immunization push in the country.

Does high TV ad rotation give patients the wrong idea about drugs?

Who carries more weight with patients: celebrities, models or real people? What one change would influential patients make to pharma's advertising? WEGO Health tried to get some answers from high-profile patients.

GSK's big, bad whooping cough vaccination campaign bares its teeth

The wolf who gobbled up Little Red Riding Hood's grandma has nothing on GlaxoSmithKline's new big bad wolf. The frightening star of a new marketing effort encouraging whooping cough vaccinations transfigures a grandmother's face while she cradles her newborn grandchild. Even GSK notes the ad may be "a bit unsettling" to some people.

Pharma TV ad study finds drug rivalries have fringe benefit

New research finds that too much pharma advertising is focused on attacking rival drugs. But those ads are still driving people to ask their doctors about conditions and treatments, and that's a positive, said Wharton business economics professor Michael Sinkinson, who recently co-authored a study measuring the impact of DTC television ads.