Effectiveness of Drug Ads Questioned by StudyJan 13, 2009 | Parker Waichman LLP, LLP
Direct-to-Consumer drug marketing is not hitting its mark. According to a recent study, such ads for prescription medications do not have the effect industry first believed, says MSNBC.com.
As a matter-of-fact, according to the study, which was published in the Annals of Family Medicine, a mere 3.5 percent of all patient visits to a group of doctor’s offices in Colorado involved patients specifically requesting a particular drug, said MSNBC, adding that this was about half of what was reported in a similar, earlier study.
Meanwhile, in late 2007, a law was enacted requiring print drug ads to state, "You are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Visit www.fda.gov/medwatch, or call 1-800-FDA-1088." Currently, broadcast ads have no such similar requirements. At the same time, the Consumers Union (CU) petitioned the FDA to require the statement on TV and radio drug ads.
The FDA guidelines also allowed industry to greatly expand its advertising, but required a fair balance between risk and efficacy information be presented. Unfortunately, the FDA did not define exactly what it meant by “fair balance.” Direct-to-consumer advertising drives billions of dollars in U.S. sales and studies find most television prescription drug ads minimize risk information. Such ads began being aired just over a decade ago, but at least one study found that most do not present a fair balance of information, especially when describing side effects. According to TNS Media Intelligence, reports MSNBC, such advertising has exceeded the $5 billion annual mark.
The study, which looked at 22 primary care physician practices in Colorado, reviewed 1,647 patient visits. In addition to the 3.5 percent—or 58 patients—who requested a particular medication, the researchers found that only 43 patients—2.6 percent—asked about recently advertised drugs, reports MSNBC. Interestingly, while the requested medications were often not among the physicians first choice, in about half of the cases, the physician did prescribe what his/her patient requested.
In 2007, Dr. Kurt Stange, editor of the Annals of Family Medicine, announced that it was “time to ban direct-to-consumer advertising of prescription drugs,” saying that he found such advertising to “provide biased educational material and emotional appeals that promote drugs over healthy alternatives,” quoted MSNBC. But industry disagrees claiming such marketing “increases people’s awareness of disease and available treatments,” according to online guidelines from the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, an industry trade group.
Early last year, Reuters reported that pharmaceutical maker AstraZeneca Plc asked for a implementation of a program for industry to submit direct-to-consumer advertisements for regulatory review. The effort failed because the FDA was not allowed to collect and spend the industry fees needed to fund the program.
Reuters noted that some in industry want the review program due to concerns that consumers are linking the ads to hype and inappropriate marketing practices. And while some companies do submit their ads to the FDA for review, the FDA is not manned with sufficient staff to handle the need.