Patients with chronic condition open to DTC advertising, survey reveals

While the physician-member American Medical Association has come down firmly against DTC advertising with its recent ban, patients with chronic conditions are more allowing when it comes to DTC, according to a recent Inspire community survey.

Inspire CEO Brian Loew

Inspire, a patient engagement platform with more than 700,000 members, posted a query across a cross-section of its online patient support communities specifically for FiercePharmaMarketing, asking patients to offer opinions about DTC advertising. Overall, across the several dozen responses received, most patients were all right with DTC ads, in general viewing them as just another source of data about treatment options.

Brian Loew, CEO of Inspire, said patients want "as much information as possible, and they're generally regarding ads as information. … I'm not looking to start a war with the AMA, but I feel that saying your patients don't need that information is patronizing."

While few patients offered ecstatic endorsements, Loew's characterization of DTC ads as information came across in their comments. For example, one 45-year-old female patient said, "I approve of drug advertisements on TV, magazines and anywhere else they can get information to me. I have seen and asked my doctors for certain medications by seeing them on TV that I would have never heard from otherwise and my doctors had not ever mentioned these to me."

Another woman, a 65-year-old rheumatoid arthritis sufferer from Arkansas, said, "I think it is better to know what is available, and know the possible side effects."

Of course, the Inspire patients did still have some concerns about DTC ads.

A 49-year-old woman from Alabama said, "I have mixed feelings about marketing medications. On one hand I just see it as an extra expense that the pharmaceutical companies have, which add in return to my cost of the medication. On the other, with technology and more having more than one autoimmune disease, I like being able to learn and research treatment options."

Another woman, a 46-year-old mother of a child with autism and ADHD, suggested improvements.

"I wish that all ads had a specific format in terms of what the drug was for, the side effects, who should not take the drug, etc., in a manner similar to the food labeling we are seeing on grocery store foods. It shouldn't require an MD for an average consumer to sort through the legalities and the 'big sell' via a pretty picture or scene to get the direct information needed to make a decision. The company that re-rigs the format of those commercials will save time, money and more on behalf of themselves and the consumer."

Loew noted that the patients in Inspire communities tend to be proactive and keen for information about conditions and treatments for themselves or as caregivers.

He said, "Today patients get information from so many sources. They recognize doctors as their primary source of information, but also they want to look up information and do their own homework. And now more than ever, they want to talk to their peers. … There's a lot of people asking 'What do you think?' on Inspire. It's not a substitute for their doctor's advice, but simply asking for opinions and sharing experiences with peers."

Doctors, though, still remain divided on the DTC issue. While some acknowledge that patient awareness as a benefit, others complain that the ads--and ensuing patient questions--interfere with their jobs.

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