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

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Latest Headlines

Valeant plots big DTC push for Xifaxan while rival Actavis drug waits on DEA

Last week, the FDA approved both Valeant's Xifaxan and Actavis' new Viberzi to treat IBS-D. And now, the market will get to watch what Bernstein analyst Ronny Gal deemed an "interesting test" of two company approaches as the pair competes for uptake.

Abbott takes Pedialyte on the festival circuit as grown-up hangover remedy

Summer music festival goers may see a new face this year among the beer and souvenir tents. Pedialyte, Abbott Laboratories' electrolyte drink for sick kids, is joining the summer fun circuit to hand out samples as an antidote for overindulgence.

Who's best at connecting with 'worried well' millennials? J&J, Sanofi and UCB

Millennials want to be happy and healthy, but they're just so stressed out. Contrary to the typical carefree image of youth, millennials ages 18 to 32 worry about health issues--like getting a serious illness or affording healthcare--as much as baby boomers do, according to a recent study by InVentiv Health companies GSW and Allidura, along with Harris Poll.

UPDATED: My bathtub or yours? How a panned Cialis ad became promotional gold

Television ads have shown them lounging on a beach, gazing at the view from a mountaintop and watching the view from above a scenic lake. All sans clothing and facing away from the camera. We're talking about Eli Lilly's Cialis bathtub couples, of course. Yet the bathtub couples were not universally well-received at launch, and they've been oft-spoofed since.

Who needs a hard switch? Namenda XR ad campaign is already bolstering conversions

​Actavis may have lost its court bid to "hard switch" original Namenda users to Namenda XR, but that's all the more reason to continue its aggressive marketing of the newer one-a-day Alzheimer's pill.

AZ, Daiichi sign up Olympian Joyner-Kersee, hoping OIC patients will make tracks to Movantik

When you're targeting an under-the-radar malady that hasn't traditionally been treated with prescription drugs, it's up to marketers to get the word out and deliver on sales. And that's why AstraZeneca and Daiichi Sankyo, whose Movantik launched earlier this year, are bringing a 6-time Olympic medalist on board to talk about opioid-induced constipation (OIC).

Litany of side effects in DTC ads 'a waste of time' for patients, top FDA official says

Momentum is building at the FDA for an overhaul of DTC advertising. That familiar--and often lampooned--recitation of side effects is looking more and more like an endangered species.

GSK pumps out big bucks for Flonase OTC launch

Spring has sprung and so has allergy advertising. Drugmakers blast the airwaves annually as the pollen starts to fly, with the latest sniff and cough relief remedies.

The top 10 advertisers in Big Pharma

While the list of the top spending DTC ad spenders changes every year, there are always a few certainties and a few surprises.

Analysts 'skeptical' Sanofi can turn around Afrezza launch, but DTC ads are coming

Afrezza wasn't expected to be the spinach that would give Sanofi's diabetes business instant, superhuman strength. But the inhaled insulin, launched in February under a marketing deal with MannKind, was supposed to help fuel sales growth.