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.

Tag:

DTC advertising

Latest Headlines

Latest Headlines

Celebrity pitch-folks may not be worth the money, study finds

Celebrities are making more and more appearances in pharma's DTC advertising. But do they help meds score with patients the same way they help sell consumer goods?

Listen to celebrity drug ads? Patients do hear, but they don't obey

Celebrities are making more and more appearances in pharma's DTC advertising. The way drugmakers see it, celeb endorsements help their meds score with patients the same way they help sell consumer goods. Or do they?

GSK relaunches COPD patient site with blockbuster sales on the line

GlaxoSmithKline's new respiratory blockbuster hopefuls, Anoro and Breo, aren't quite where analysts thought they'd be by now. And with the pair slated to take the torch from aging giant Advair, Glaxo is taking their marketing seriously.

AstraZeneca unit rolls out preemie newspaper ads to fight Synagis limits

Drugmakers cheer when doctors' groups revise treatment guidelines to include new drugs. What happens when these powerful professional associations change those recommendations unfavorably? If you're AstraZeneca's MedImmune business, you fight back with sensational newspaper advertising.

Brand websites drive new patients to scripts--and old patients to refills

How's your brand's website? Better keep a close eye on it. That site could be your best shot at persuading new patients to start a drug--and current patients to keep taking it.

Do teens hear what we hear? FDA aims to find out in study of acne, ADHD ads

Acne remedies and ADHD drugs are big markets for the teen demographic--but how exactly are young consumers interpreting advertisements for these products? A soon-to-launch FDA study aims to find out exactly that.

Pfizer peddles advice for the lovelorn in Asia contraceptive campaign

If someone asked who you'd turn to for relationship advice, chances are you wouldn't say Pfizer. But that could change. The drugmaker has set up a sort of Love Connection campaign to support its contraceptive brand Harmonet in Asia.

With a new IPF drug on its way, Boehringer backs a Discovery documentary on the lung disease

To raise awareness about diseases their products treat, some pharma companies launch online marketing campaigns. Others team up with celebrity spokespeople. Boehringer Ingelheim backs Discovery Channel documentaries.

Amarin picks up Pawn Stars host to pitch its struggling fish-oil pill, Vascepa

The market for Omega 3-based prescription drugs was just a one-drug wonder. But now, there are not only two more fish-oil-based brands--Amarin's Vascepa and AstraZeneca's Epanova--but a generic version of Lovaza, too. And all four are looking for their share of a market that is still more potential than actual.

Fake patient story wins a real-life marketing award? Discuss

I'm not a doctor, but I play one on TV. That approach has put pharma in the doghouse before. But now, here's a new question. What about, "I'm not a patient, but I play one in a promo campaign for doctors"?