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

Does pricier mean better to ad consumers? FDA means to find out

The FDA wants to know how price comparisons in advertising affect people's perceptions of drug quality. The agency's Office of Prescription Drug Promotion is planning a new study to assess how diabetes patients and their doctors react to direct-to-consumer advertisements that feature price info.

The 2014 DTC ads that made the grade

Any opinions about which new direct-to-consumer TV ads worked best last year? Check yours against the top 10 curated by  Medical Marketing & Media.

Were Low-T ads 'disease mongering'? Two experts say yes

A couple of geriatrics experts have joined the chorus of recommendations against testosterone therapy. But they're going a step further. They say drugmakers' enthusiastic advertising--which happened to be effective, too--was actually disease-mongering.

Pharma's ad spend vaults to $4.5B, with big spender Pfizer leading the way

Suspicions are confirmed: Pharma's spending on ads took a flying leap last year. By Kantar Media's numbers, direct-to-consumer ad spend hit $4.53 billion in 2014, up about 18% from $3.83 billion in 2013.

Sanofi aims for that sweet smell of success with spring Nasacort campaign

Sanofi is hoping to spring forward with a new marketing campaign for OTC Nasacort.

Valeant bets big on the Super Bowl with $4.5M toe-fungus ad

Valeant Pharmaceuticals wasn't kidding when it said it was ready to rumble with new promotional spending. Its antifungal treatment for toenails, Jublia, will go to the Super Bowl this Sunday. And that's no cheap ticket.

Some ad types are calling it: 'Pharmageddon' is over. DTC is back.

As the pharma pipeline flows, so does pharma marketing. That's the moral of a new surge in direct-to-consumer ad spending. Last year, the FDA approved 41 brand-new drugs, a record-breaking figure. And as Advertising Age reports, after some long, dry years when DTC spending sunk to new lows, the pharma category is coming back on tap.

Pfizer complains, advertising watchdog acts against Novartis Theraflu promo

Novartis claims its Theraflu Multi-Symptom Severe Cold "starts to get to work in your body in 5 minutes" after taking it. But competitor Pfizer isn't having it--and neither is the National Advertising Division.

Do rival DTC campaigns help your own brand? Yes, a study shows--up to a point

There's the old saying that what's good for the goose is good for the gander. But does one drugmaker's advertising actually benefit its rivals? According to a new report, the answer is yes.

BBDO and JWT win, Havas loses as Bayer divvies up Merck's former OTC brands

Bayer, which picked up Merck's consumer health unit in a $14.2 billion deal this spring, wanted to fold in all the brands from the New Jersey pharma giant's lineup. But to do so, it had to do some creative assignment shuffling. And its agencies had to take some creative steps of their own.