Is it time to back off DTC advertising?

In the annals of DTC advertising, this is the Irony edition. Instead of asking their doctors for branded meds by name, patients are mentioning a type of drug, but not the brand. Not exactly a testament to advertising results. What's more, some patients aren't asking for the drugs, they're asking about the drugs' side effects. Which could be a testament to regulators' crackdown on the quick-scrolling, auctioneer-style disclosure of drug risks.

Here's the scoop: Market researcher Verilogue recorded 12,500 conversations between patients and their doctors. But contrary to commonly cited patient surveys that show 50 percent of respondents requesting drugs they've seen on TV or in print, only 23 of those conversations included requests for specific drugs. The drug mentioned most often? Boniva, the osteoporosis med marketed by GlaxoSmithKline and Roche.

As BNet Pharma points out, other recent stats and studies appear to show that the DTC juggernaut actually has feet of clay. For instance, companies have been spending less to advertise antidepressants and sleeping pills, but scrips for both types of meds have grown anyway. And in another for instance, a Harvard study found that consumer response to three new meds was no different in English-speaking regions of Canada--which get American DTC ads in English over the airwaves--from the response in French-speaking regions.

As you know, DTC ads are almost always under debate. Currently, some lawmakers want to kill the tax deduction for drugmakers' spending on those ads. And others are lobbying for a moratorium on new-drug advertising for some two years after a medication is first launched. Meanwhile, however, drugmakers continue to shovel millions into their ad campaigns. As BusinessWeek notes, drug ad spending is down only 7 percent so far this recession, while retailers have cut their ad spending by almost three times that.

- see the BusinessWeek news
- check out the post at BNet Pharma
- get more from a BusinessWeek column

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