Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Want to Go Back in Time?

I know so many physicians who want to travel back in time to the days before direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertising was allowed. In those days, patients did not get bombarded with television, Internet, radio, and magazine ads about specific drugs. Pharmaceutical companies spend billions of dollars each year on DTC advertising. Many people want to see DTC go away. However, proponents of DTC would argue that these commercials have improved public health awareness of certain conditions (like cervical cancer) and have also informed patients that treatment for specific conditions are available.

So, what if we simply changed the rules behind DTC marketing?
  • Instead of mentioning a specific drug name, mention the condition and urge consumers to "talk to your doctor" about the options that are available. Will pharmaceutical companies continue DTC advertising if that became the new rule? Perhaps only those companies that have the ONLY drug for a specific condition (how often does that occur?). Maybe this type of change isn't feasible.
  • What if DTC ads were multi-sponsored or multi-supported? In other words, take all the drug manufacturers who make a drug for a specific condition (let's say restless leg syndrome or RLS). Then, have them all contribute funds towards an RLS commercial. The commercial will improve public awareness of this condition and also list each of the drugs that are used to treat this condition. Would this work?
What are your thoughts about DTC? We probably won't see DTC completely disappear. Some want to delay DTC ads for one year (let the doctors learn about the new drugs before the patients learn about them). I'd personally like to see the funds for DTC channeled towards efforts that focus on improving public health and health/medical education for both consumers and healthcare professionals.

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