Well­ness Arti­cles

Direct-​to-​Consumer Pre­scrip­tion Drug Adver­tis­ing Up in U.S.

A study pub­lished in the August 16, 2007 issue of the New Eng­land Jour­nal of Med­i­cine, (NEJM) notes that in spite of increas­ing crit­i­cisms direct-​to-​consumer adver­tis­ing of pre­scrip­tion drugs con­tin­ues to increase in the US. The study starts off with some back­ground infor­ma­tion and states, “Evi­dence sug­gests that direct-​to-​consumer adver­tis­ing of pre­scrip­tion drugs increases phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal sales and both helps to avert under-​use of med­i­cines and leads to poten­tial overuse.”

The results of this study showed that total spend­ing on phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal pro­mo­tion grew from $11.4 bil­lion in 1996 to $29.9 bil­lion in 2005. Dur­ing that time spend­ing by drug com­pa­nies on direct-​to-​consumer adver­tis­ing increased by 330%. The study noted that in most cases direct-​to-​consumer cam­paigns gen­er­ally begin within a year after the approval of a prod­uct by the US Food and Drug Admin­is­tra­tion (FDA). Even with this tremen­dous increase in spend­ing, the study noted that, “the num­ber of let­ters sent by the FDA to phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal man­u­fac­tur­ers regard­ing vio­la­tions of drug-​advertising reg­u­la­tions fell from 142 in 1997 to only 21 in 2006.”

The NEJM study was also reported on by sev­eral news out­lets, how­ever, most were not in the United States. One report in the US by Health­Day News on August 15, 2007 ques­tions direct-​to-​consumer adver­tis­ing of pre­scrip­tion drugs. Presently only the United States and New Zealand allow drug mak­ers to adver­tise pre­scrip­tion med­ica­tions directly to consumers.

Study author Julie M. Dono­hue, assis­tant pro­fes­sor of health pol­icy and man­age­ment at the Uni­ver­sity of Pitts­burgh Grad­u­ate School of Pub­lic Health, states, “Direct-​to-​consumer adver­tis­ing spend­ing is increas­ing in terms of its share of total mar­ket­ing bud­get, but it’s still a smaller share rel­a­tive to pro­mo­tion aimed at influ­enc­ing pre­scribers.” Dono­hue con­tin­ued, “It’s been 10 years since the FDA clar­i­fied its pol­icy with respect to broad­cast adver­tis­ing and unleashed direct-​to-​consumer adver­tis­ing on tele­vi­sion, which was new. We wanted to see, in the wake of the Vioxx with­drawal and an increased focus on the safety of drugs and a focus on drug costs in light of the imple­men­ta­tion of the new Medicare drug ben­e­fit, what indus­try and the FDA were doing with respect to advertising.”

An August 15, 2007 arti­cle in “The Cana­dian Press” on this study noted that such adver­tise­ments are cur­rently not per­mit­ted in Canada but that there are legal chal­lenges to allow this type of adver­tis­ing. The Cana­dian arti­cle noted that ear­lier this year a report pub­lished by the U.S. Insti­tute of Med­i­cine rec­om­mended that the US Food and Drug Admin­is­tra­tion, bar drug com­pa­nies from adver­tis­ing pre­scrip­tion drugs in the first two years after they come to mar­ket. The rea­son­ing is that dur­ing that 2 year period a drug will start to be broadly used and there­fore rare side-​effects not seen in clin­i­cal tri­als can become evident.

How­ever, study author Dono­hue expresses skep­ti­cism that any change will take place in the con­clu­sion of her study when she states, “Spend­ing on direct-​to-​consumer adver­tis­ing has con­tin­ued to increase in recent years in spite of the crit­i­cisms lev­eled against it. Our find­ings sug­gest that calls for a mora­to­rium on such adver­tis­ing for new drugs would rep­re­sent a dra­matic depar­ture from cur­rent practices.”

Ran­dom Article

On June 1st 2000 the Asso­ci­ated Press ran a story that strongly sug­gested that many of the news releases on drugs com­monly run on

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