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.

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DTC advertising

Latest Headlines

Latest Headlines

With all eyes on Alcon, Novartis plots DTC ad push, new marketing spend

Novartis CEO Joe Jimenez is putting his faith in advertising. As part of a plan for turning around its Alcon unit, the Swiss drugmaker is mounting an aggressive consumer marketing push for its struggling contact lens business.

Fishing for market share, Boehringer Ingelheim casts a new campaign for Pradaxa

What do fish and atrial fibrillation have in common? AFib feels like a fish fluttering in your chest, according to patients interviewed by Germany-based drugmaker Boehringer Ingelheim. That was the insight that inspired a newly launched ad campaign for clot-fighter Pradaxa, featuring computer-generated fish.

Synchronized dancers jazz up Reckitt Benckiser's new MegaRed pitch

Reckitt Benckiser's MegaRed is shaking up the fish oil supplement market--literally. Its new ad campaign, which features synchronized dancers gracefully moving to form different shapes, deviates notably from the traditional OTC omega-3 script of talking head experts.

What really drove the AMA's vote to ban DTC? A former Lilly marketing exec has an idea

Back in November, the American Medical Association voted to ban all direct-to-consumer advertising for drugs, citing physician concerns over the "negative impact of commercially driven promotions and the role that marketing costs play in fueling escalating drug prices." But the way former Eli Lilly marketing exec and industry consultant Richard Meyer sees it, there's something else going on.

Patients with chronic condition open to DTC advertising, survey reveals

While the physician-member American Medical Association has come down firmly against DTC advertising with its recent ban, patients with chronic conditions are more allowing when it comes to DTC, according to a recent Inspire community survey.

Mr. Mucus-repped cough meds get the most positive buzz online

Score one for Mr. Mucus. A new study found that the slimy spokes-character helped propel Reckitt Benckiser's family of Mucinex brands to three of the top four slots on a new list of preferred OTC cough-and-cold medicines. Treato, the online data-analysis company, created the list by analyzing findings from more than 5 million patient-written online posts and reviews.

Advantage all? DTC ads boost prescription use and adherence, research finds

In the tussle between the American Medical Assocation and pharma DTC advertising, new research gives ammunition to both sides.

Kantar Media survey: Not all docs hate all ads

In the wake of the American Medical Association's pan of DTC advertising last week, Kantar Media recently found that not all physicians dislike all advertising.

If TV's everywhere, then where does pharma need to be?

Good-bye appointment TV, hello TV everywhere. As TV and video watching becomes wherever and whenever consumers want, marketers, including pharma, have had to shift strategies to reach those hard-to-pin-down viewers.

UPDATED: Just say no to drugs (advertising): AMA votes to ban DTC ads

The American Medical Association is done with DTC. In a historic vote on Tuesday, the physicians' group voted for a ban on all direct-to-consumer advertising for drugs and medical devices.