Suddenly, everyone's a DTC critic

Ding dong, DTC is all but dead? The Pharma Marketing Blog totes up some recent quotes and numbers, concluding that 2009 could be the year consumer advertising will falter in a big way.

Evidence? Roche pharmaceuticals chief William Burns recently called DTC advertising the "worst decision for the industry." At the same conference, Shire CEO Angus Russell said the U.S. is way too lax in regulating direct communication with patients. Now, GlaxoSmithKline is backing off (at least somewhat) from its own TV advertising. CEO Andrew Witty even says TV ads sometimes alienate the patients they're trying to reach.

Plus, PMB notes, there's Dr. Sidney Wolfe--the consumer advocate who's now a big cheese on the FDA's Drug Safety and Risk Management Committee. Wolfe is an outspoken proponent of limiting consumer ads.

And then there's a new study, reported today by MSNBC, which found that DTC ads aren't as effective as they used to be. Only 3.5 percent of patient visits to the doctors' offices and clinics studied included a request for a specific drug. That's about half the rate found in a 2003 study. And when researchers looked specifically at drugs that had been advertised recently, the rate was even lower, at 2.6 percent. (A caveat: this study looked at low-income patients, who might not be representative of the entire drug-taking population.)

Experts theorize that patients might be dismissive of drug ads these days. High profile safety problems may be making TV-watchers more skeptical about the claims they see in DTC ads. Not good news for the companies that spend millions on those ads. Maybe that's the real reason why pharma execs are suddenly turned off.

- see the post at PMB
- read the Wolfe profile in the Wall Street Journal
- check out the MSNBC piece