Did you know it has been 17 years since direct-to-consumer drug (DTC) advertising was permitted in the United States? If you haven’t noticed from the advertising on your TV, the results are pretty obvious. DTC advertising, on which Big Pharma spends over $3 billion a year, has done much more than sell pills - through their educational efforts, the pharma industry has even sold new diseases to a very paranoid audience.
In fact, when people hear a TV ad about depression, many think it’s an announcement from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or another medical group. But, the truth is, according to Investigative Drug Reporter Martha Rosenberg, most disease awareness messages are about Big Pharma trying to get people to diagnose themselves with a disease to create demand for a new drug.
“There is no relationship between public health needs and the direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertising” which makes a disease popular,” according to Madhusree Singh, MD in the Journal of the Society of General Internal Medicine. “Anecdotally, I can tell you that if I got a dime for every time a patient asked for a drug by name, I would not need to go to work.”
The pharma industry has been selling diseases that require expensive drugs and new drugs suppress the immune system. In fact, they can make the companies as much as $20,000 a year per patient, but while they can be useful for people suffering from autoimmune disorders, it’s unconscionable to market drugs with poor safety profiles to people who don’t need them.
Many of the diseases marketed to consumers through direct advertising don’t have clear biological markers. And Big Pharma’s awareness ads have created a nation of patients who don’t just ask their doctors if they have a disease they saw on TV — they often insist to their clinician that they’re suffering from a disorder.
John Abramson, MD, author of “Overdosed America: The Broken Promise of American Medicine” and a clinical instructor at Harvard told CNN, “I could not convince many of my patients that the marketing they were hearing about Vioxx was maximizing the benefits and minimizing the risks,” he said. “That’s how powerful the advertising is.”
We’ll have more on the latest in pharma marketing at ePharma. Join us February 24-26 in New York, NY.
This piece was contributed by @AmandaCicc.
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