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

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.

Sleepless seniors fuel threefold rise in sleep-drug use

As more and more sleep drugs hit the market, the customer pool is expanding, too. New data from the CDC says prescriptions for sleep drugs have tripled over the last 20 years--with older people recording the highest rate of use.

Does pharma spend more on marketing than R&D? A numbers check

So, do drug companies really spend more money on marketing than on R&D? In the Pipeline takes a look at that contention, and the cold hard facts are these: Probably not. But it's hard to tell for sure.

Pharma DTC ad spending sinks 11.5%, a $2B slide from 2006 peak

The bad news for prime-time television and consumer magazines: Pharma's direct-to-consumer advertising dropped by 11.5% last year, to $3.47 billion. The even worse news for digital venues: DTC spend fell by 33%.

Same song, lower budget for pharma's sales force

The more things change, the more they stay the same. According to a new study from Johns Hopkins, that old adage applies to drug marketing.

Testosterone drug sales may be ahead of science

At just under $2 billion a year in sales, the testosterone replacement drug business is small by industry standards, but it is growing as the population ages and sophisticated marketing ramps up.

Big Pharma does lousy job with mobile online sites

While Big Pharma has mastered the art of direct-to-consumer television advertising, and even turned out some pretty impressive websites, when it comes to getting to consumers on their now ubiquitous smartphones, they rate poorly.

Lilly takes the lead in DTC ad spending, surpassing Pfizer

Eli Lilly ($LLY) has overtaken Pfizer ($PFE) in the pharma advertising steeplechase. Cegedim Strategic Data reports that Lilly's spending on direct-to-consumer advertising surpassed Pfizer's in April. And that's a big change. Pfizer has been DTC's big spender for some time.