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

Patients are glued to iPhones and tablets, but pharma ads stick to TV

Direct-to-consumer advertising ticked upward last year, to just shy of $3.8 billion. Pharma's TV advertising was up, too, by 12.7%. Even radio captured some pharma ad growth. But digital advertising? Pharma spent even less online last year than in 2012, and the online share of DTC was already small to begin with.

Auxilium aims Stendra's sexy March Madness ads at stiff ED competition

It's March Madness in the NCAA, which means lots of men glued to the games. What better time for an underdog erectile dysfunction drug to tout itself? That's the theory at Auxilium, which is launching an ad campaign for the ED remedy Stendra.

Astellas presents The Bladder, animated pitch-organ for overactive-bladder med Myrbetriq

We're accustomed to animated characters in our drug advertising. That cheerful, buzzing Nasonex bee. The gently fluttering Lunesta moth. The droopy, sad little blob that so needs Zoloft. But a perky... bladder?

Pfizer's impressive Prevnar data isn't enough to win billions in adult sales

Promising data could spell a new recommendation for Pfizer's Prevnar 13 pneumococcal vaccine in older adults, adding up to $1 billion in global sales. But some of Prevnar 13's sales will ride on Pfizer's marketing success with the 65-and-over crowd--which has proven a tough nut to crack for competitor Merck.

With tough Japanese enforcers eyeing its Blopress marketing, Takeda chief admits missteps

Japan's health ministry is one of the world's toughest when it comes to demanding truth in advertising. Violators can be thrown in prison. And the newest target of its scrutiny is Takeda Pharmaceutical, which is now admitting it may have mismarketed its hypertension drug Blopress.

Eisai's revved-up Belviq marketing starting to pay off, analysts say

When it comes to addressing the market, pharma has three P's, according to Eisai's Michael O'Brien: physician, payer and patient. And as VP of specialty marketing, O'Brien is looking to hit each of them in promoting the recently launched weight-loss drug Belviq.

Simplify, simplify? FDA to study pared-down side effects in TV ads

What if the rapid-fire list of side effects at the end of a TV commercial or YouTube video could be cut to a few discrete items? If that sounds like an idea made in advertising heaven, you're wrong. It's an idea coming out of the FDA.

That drug's got personality. But is it 'original,' 'dependable,' or both?

Do drugs have personalities? Well, according to a new study, consumers think they do. And the way consumers perceive a drug's personality offers some clues for shaping those perceptions.

UPDATED: Corks are a-popping at Teva with FDA nod for its new Copaxone formula

Brace yourselves for the Teva Pharmaceutical Industries marketing blitz. The company won FDA approval Tuesday evening for its new, three-times-a-week Copaxone, and Teva needs to convert as many patients as possible to the new version before the original goes off patent in May.

Bristol-Myers is counting on DTC to keep driving Eliquis growth

Bristol-Myers Squibb says its Eliquis DTC campaign is doing its part to help get sales where the company wants them. Revenues for the anticoagulant may not be where many analysts expected they'd be when they talked the drug up as a future $3-billion-a-year blockbuster. But they are on the rise--thanks, in part, to the campaign, launched in September. And BMS says it's not stopping there.