Direct-to-Consumer Advertising of Drugs Continues to Increase

Drug company spending on direct-to-consumer marketing continues to skyrocket, even while criticisms against this have soared. Calling to get a moratorium, rather than just restrictions, on such marketing might be in order, state the authors of a report in the Aug. 16 issue of the brand new England Journal of Medication.”Direct-to-consumer advertising spending is increasing in terms of its share of total marketing spending budget, but it’s still a smaller sized share relative to promotion aimed at influencing prescribers,” stated study author Julie M. Donohue, an assistant professor of health policy and management at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate College of Public Health. The U. S. Food and Medication Administration started permitting direct-to-consumer marketing of prescription medications on television 10 years ago. Since that time, dots of Dorothy Hamill and Sally Field peddling Vioxx and Boniva, respectively, cartoon personas illustrating the consequences of the antidepressant Zoloft, and an array of similar promotions have become commonplace on American Television displays and in other press. But so, too, has criticism of the practice. Skeptics say that direct-to-consumer marketing encourages overuse of medicines and drives up drug spending. The controversy reached critical proportions when the arthritis medication Vioxx, one of the most heavily promoted medications ever, was withdrawn from the market in 2004 due to serious cardiovascular risks.”It has been 10 years since the FDA clarified its plan regarding broadcast advertising and unleashed direct-to-consumer advertising on television, that was new,” Donohue said. “We wished to observe, in the wake of the Vioxx withdrawal and an elevated focus on the safety of drugs and a focus on medication costs in light of the implementation of the new Medicare drug advantage, what industry and the FDA were doing with respect to advertising.”For this analysis, Donohue and her colleagues viewed pharmaceutical company spending on direct-to-consumer advertising and promotion to physicians over the past decade. Total pharmaceutical industry spending on promotion soared from $11.4 billion in 1996 to almost $30 billion in 2005. Throughout that time, spending on direct-to-consumer marketing improved by 330 percent, yet this kind of advertising just produced up 14 percent of total promotional expenditures. These mass-media advertising blitzes generally start before a drug’s safety background has been established available on the market, the researchers said.”For the majority of heavily advertised medicines, direct-to-consumer marketing starts within in regards to a calendar year of FDA approval and typically prior to the safety profile provides been established,” Donohue stated. The most heavily marketed drug in 2005 was that “little purple pill,” Nexium, a proton pump inhibitor heartburn medication, on which AstraZeneca spent $224 million. Next emerged the sleeping tablet Lunesta ($214 million), followed by the cholesterol-reducing statins Vytorin ($155 million) and Crestor ($144 million), then Advair, a corticosteroid ($137 million). Viagra was 17th on the list, with $80 million spent in 2005.Eight of the very best 10 drug classes when it comes to sales had in least one product that was promoted through DTC advertising. Manufacturers of proton pump inhibitors, statins and erythropoietin medications (drugs such as for example Procrit, which increase crimson blood cellular counts) spent 34 percent, 34 percent and 31 percent of their total advertising budget on direct-to-consumer marketing in 2005, respectively.”In the majority of top-selling classes, in least one medication is advertised to consumers and in over fifty percent of the classes multiple medications are advertising to consumers, so it really does enjoy a major role,” Donohue said. “DTC marketing is used for a little subset of medicines, whereas other forms of promotion like ‘detailing’ [person-to-person meetings] and totally free samples are used by manufacturers for virtually all branded items.”The antidepressants known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), such as Celexa, Paxil, Prozac and Zoloft, led the field in promotional spending with more than $1 billion spent in 2005. Next were statins ($859 million), then proton pump inhibitors ($884 million).At the same time, Donohue stated, “The FDA’s monitoring of drug advertising has not kept pace with the quantity of advertising of prescription medications. The number of warning letters going out to drug businesses has decreased markedly [from 142 in 1997 to 21 in 2006], and the number of FDA staff accountable for advertisements was relatively flat recently, in spite of spending increases.”It may be that the guidelines themselves are sufficient, but that enforcement powers aren’t.”My look at is that the marketing rules that are on the book at this point are adequate. Prescription medication ads are among the most heavily regulated advertisements if you look at all other consumer items,” Donohue said. “However the enforcement of the rules needs to be there aswell, and resources necessary for reviewing advertisements have to be sufficient.””And drug manufacturers don’t need to have FDA authorization of advertisements before airing them, so an ad campaign can operate its course before the FDA will be able to review the advertisements,” she added. In response to the study, Ken Johnson, senior vice president of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), said in a statement: “DTC advertising has been shown to play an integral role in educating and empowering sufferers, improving patient knowledge of disease and available treatments, and fostering solid relationships between patients and their health-care providers. Unfortunately, the study released today in the New England Journal of Medicine all but overlooks these important contributions to patient wellness.””Surveys show that DTC marketing brings patients into their doctors’ offices and assists start important doctor-patient conversations about conditions that might otherwise move undiagnosed or untreated. In fact, a national study by Prevention Magazine found that 29 million patients talked to their doctor for the very first time about a health after seeing a DTC ad. The survey also found that of the patients, the majority of discuss behavioral and changes in lifestyle and more than half get a recommendation for nonprescription or generic alternatives,” the declaration said. Dr. A. Indicate Fendrick, a professor of wellness management plan at the University of Michigan School of Public Wellness in Ann Arbor, stated: “As the health-care consumerism motion encourages more data on cost and quality, it really is increasingly vital that you consider the source of information.””This research confirms that direct-to-consumer marketing of medicines is here to stay and will contribute to the info overload confronted by the normal consumer. Individuals, clinicians and payers should interact to implement steps to maximize the positive facet of DTC advertising —
increased use of drugs in individuals most likely to advantage — while minimizing the safety problems and unnecessary expenditure of inappropriate use,” this individual said.

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