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

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"?

Fresh off a TV ad launch, Eisai plots another 200-rep add to Belviq sales force

Japanese drugmaker Eisai, which is partnered with Arena Pharmaceuticals on the weight-loss pill Belviq, plans to add another 200 contract sales reps to its team. On top of a new television ad push begun last month, the sales-force expansion is a one-two punch aimed at keeping prescription trends on the upswing.

Drug ads miss the mark with patients who need treatment the most

People who deal with more than one chronic illness respond very differently to their healthcare. A new study shows they respond differently to healthcare advertising, too. And that means direct-to-consumer marketing may be falling short.

Simplify the DTC roll call of side effects? Yes, please, drugmakers tell FDA

In February, the FDA announced that it wanted to see whether paring down a litany of side effects at the end of a pharmaceutical TV ad or YouTube video would help consumers understand the risks better. The agency asked for comments about its plans for a study, and now, the pharma industry is weighing in, Regulatory Focus reported. The unsurprising verdict? Drugmakers like the idea.

Big Pharma, Google wants you to go viral on YouTube

The champions of digital marketing pounded their chests in dismay earlier this month, when 2013 DTC-spending stats showed online ads on the wane. Down by 14%, and the numbers were pretty paltry to begin with. No wonder, then, that Google is lobbying the pharma business on YouTube's behalf.

How to talk about constipation? Forest's new DTC campaign for Linzess will show you

Irritable bowel syndrome is tricky. Symptoms come and go, they vary from person to person, and they're not dinner-table conversation. But Forest Laboratories and Ironwood Pharmaceuticals need to get patients talking about their IBS with constipation--because they have a drug for that.

Looking for pharma ads? Turn on the TV, not your smartphone

Pharma spent even less on digital advertising last year than in 2012, and the online share of DTC was already small to begin with.

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.