Written by Mark Osterman, Senior Vice President, Kineticos
There has been a significant amount of discussion regarding direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertising and its benefits and drawbacks. The AMA and ASHP have both voted to ban DTC advertising. There is also discussion on whether the tax deduction for DTC advertising should be repealed for the manufacturers. Also, in the midst of all this debate, pharma companies spent more than $5B in 2015, an all time high.
The US is one of only two countries to allow DTC advertising- the other is New Zealand. Pharmaceutical companies have all the same rights to sell the wares as any other enterprise; educating patients is an important part of treatment. Health systems and physicians groups regularly advertise for new patients. The pharmaceutical companies state that they provide fair and balanced information to patients, which translates to better understanding of the disease, leading to more informed discussions with the healthcare provider.
It is understandable that pharma wants to continue with DTC advertising, as it has proven in the past to be a strong ROI for them. Unfortunately, patients have started to become disenchanted with DTC advertising. A recent poll showed that only 7% of patients ask for the medications that they have seen via DTC advertising, which is a significant decrease from 21% in previous polls. If these number continue to decline, it will be difficult to justify the spending, and in light of the current scrutiny, questioning the effort.
I have never been an advocate for DTC advertising, as the decision to use a pharmaceutical is a complex issue that is best handled by the prescriber. The information that is presented in DTC is hard to assimilate, and may be misinterpreted by the patient. This can lead to a myriad of misunderstandings, leading the prescriber to educate the patient on why the medication may not be for them. Patients should be well informed about their medication, and their numerous ways of gathering information on the disease state without DTC advertising. As more debate continues and the spending rises, pharma companies should be open to re-evaluating the process and role of DTC advertising in the future.
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Mark Osterman, Senior Vice President of Kineticos’ Biopharmaceutical Practice, brings 25 years of experience in the biopharmaceutical industry to the team. His team is focused on helping growth-oriented biopharma companies realize their commercial potential at the corporate, portfolio and product levels. Mark’s therapeutic expertise includes cardiovascular, pulmonary, metabolics and cell/gene therapy.