Wednesday, November 08, 2006

DTC Marketing: A Good Investigation

John Mack has done a dynamite job of investigative journalism over at the Pharma Marketing Blog. CommonHealth released a report claiming that direct to consumer advertising does not lead to patients asking their MD's for newer, more expensive medications. On its face, the claim is of course laughable, as there would be no DTC advertising if it did not influence patients to ask their doctors for expensive meds. CommonHealth then covered up their data as tightly as possible -- it makes it easier to place the appropriate spin on the study that way! Enter John Mack...

John mentions that "the trade press -- including PE [Pharmaceutical Executive] Magazine -- is spinning the study to prove a point rather than to help understand how DTC works. The point they want to prove is that DTC does not cause consumers to ask for more expensive medicines. The study proves no such thing, yet CommonHealth is aiding and abetting the misinterpretation of its study by denying us acces to their data.

"Here, we can see that there were 585 mentions of a brand name drug either by the doctor or the patient during the 440 visits recorded. True, the doctor initiated the discussion in the vast majority of cases (455 or 78% of the mentions). Yet the patient mentioned a brand name drug first in 130 cases or 22% of the mentions. That's a far greater percentage than the 1.0% to 3.9% numbers that CommonHealth focuses on in its PR campaign to make its case that DTC does not play a role in patients requesting advertised drugs.

Obviously, DTC advertising plays a huge role in raising awareness of new treatments among consumers. That role is often cited by the industry as a beneficial effect of DTC advertising. If DTC and PR, which is just another arm of DTC advertising (see "Marketing Disguised as PR"), are primarily responsible for raising awareness of drugs in the minds of consumers, then, by extension, whenever a patient mentions a drug by name in a doctor's office, that mention is due to the influence of advertising.

Despite all the obfuscation and spinning of the data, no one is really fooled. But the sad part is that there is a call out for the FDA to establish an advisory board of communication experts that will help it design better methods of communicating drug benefits and risks to consumers. This advisory board will include experts from agencies such as CommonHealth. If this study is any indication on the kinds of advice the FDA will be getting from communication experts, then I anticipate a lot of blog-worthy fodder in my future!"

Jus another reason that I recommend that you regularly visit the
Pharma Marketing Blog.

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