Doctors’ advice for pharma in 2019? Lay off DTC and ramp up generics: study

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Doctors concerned about affordability and access to therapies for patients say they are working toward smarter prescribing practices. (Getty/Milkos)

Doctors think pharma should go on a DTC diet. When asked what pharma companies can do in 2019 to reduce drug prices, more than half (52%) said pharma should spend less money on DTC advertising and marketing, healthcare market researcher InCrowd found in its annual study. 

Another 21% of physicians said pharma could increase generics and biosimilars by curtailing efforts to extend patent exclusivity to cut costs. The findings were similar to last year's study, which saw 55% of docs suggest pharma cut DTC and a similar 21% of doctors say the industry should add more generics.

When asked what doctors themselves could do to reduce costs, InCrowd said “smart prescribing” topped the responses, with physicians saying they should inform themselves about costs and adopt cost-saving prescription practices (39%), as well as prescribe generics whenever possible (38%).

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“From the physicians’ perspective, they want to heal whatever patients they can,” Diane Hayes, InCrowd co-founder and president, said. “Having to deal with the insurance scenario in the United States today is complicated. They’d like to use the drug they’d like to use that has the most potential for a good outcome.”

Doctors seem to be frustrated about drug costs and this year seemed particularly upset around the handful of highly publicized price gouging instances by a few drugmakers, Meghan Oates-Zalesky, InCrowd senior VP of marketing, aid.

“The instances of the extreme price gouging situations are incredibly rare, but they seem to typify a kind of vilification of pharma that physicians feel,” she said.

Hayes said the concern from physicians comes from worry about patients’ healthcare coverage, the potential changes in a shifting healthcare landscape and what it all means for the long-term health of their patients.

Similar to last year’s survey, 88% of doctors ranked making therapies more affordable to patients as the most important industry goal for the year. Last year, 87% ranked affordability as the top healthcare goal, although that was an increase from 59% in 2017.

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The second-ranked priority for 2019 was increasing access to therapies at 41%, although that is down from 62% in 2018. Doctors are increasingly looking for innovative drugs coming to market faster for 2019—35% ranked that as a priority, a big increase from 15% in 2018.

Yet for all their wants and suggestions, physicians were also fairly cynical about the reality of healthcare system in the U.S. InCrowd found that 82% of doctors think it’s unlikely that healthcare costs will come down in 2019.