Earlier this week, we shared some perspectives on direct-to-consumer (DTC) healthcare advertising, highlighting the patient and provider POV. In case you missed it, you can view the first post here: DTC has changed tremendously during the last several decades. A historical retrospective could conclude that the advent of the web and the rise of DTC healthcare advertising are intrinsically linked.
Minding the Physician-Patient Relationship
Although patient persistence shouldn’t alter the good judgment of a physician, it can create a schism in the physician/patient relationship. Some patients, especially those who can afford the higher prices associated with new-to-market medications, want the latest drug or the one that cured an unknown patient they read about online, even though it may not be indicated for their particular condition.
On the other hand, from the perspective of drug manufacturers, DTC is an important marketing tool that has the potential of reaching millions of people. In 2014, pharmaceutical developers and medical device makers spent about $4.5 billion on marketing products to U.S. consumers. FDA regulations exist to ensure DTC advertising is truthful and accurate, and that it does not minimize the risks associated with taking the drug.
“Research shows that accurate information about disease and treatment options makes patients and healthcare providers better partners,” said Andrew Powaleny, a spokesperson for Pharmaceutical Research and Manufactures of America (PhRMA). “Providing FDA-regulated, scientifically accurate information to patients so that they are better informed about their health care and treatment options is the goal of DTC advertising about prescription medicines.”
In response to the AMA’s proposed ban, PhRMA and the Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO) launched emotional ad campaigns in an effort to improve the industry’s reputation. “From Hope to Cures” and “Time is Precious” are two ads that position pharmaceutical manufactures as developers of cures that prolong life.
Finding a Balance
It is natural for patients to want to use all available resources to become better informed healthcare consumers or to search for answers to their medical problems. However, there are important responsibilities associated with information gathering. Patients must be skeptical and learn how to filter the information they receive. They must use trusted resources, rather than relying just on an ad in a magazine, or a Facebook or YouTube posting. And, most importantly, they must talk with their physicians. Physicians have the best insight into their patients’ medical histories and are the best resource for evaluating the risks and benefits of alternative therapies.
It is also quite natural for pharmaceutical companies to want to promote their newest drugs and to recoup their research and development expenses. Using all methods of advertising is appropriate to inform and educate patients and providers about their products. However, with their position in the healthcare continuum and the inherent dependency of millions of patients on their products, pharmaceutical manufactures also incur a significant responsibility to accurately and unbiasedly present their products to consumers and healthcare providers.
Consumer education that complements provider outreach, rather than pure marketing for the sole purpose of increasing revenue, supports the patient/provider relationship. Using marketing strategies that educate and inform healthcare consumers, helps patients become engaged partners in their health-care decision making.
Interested in more perspectives on trends affecting the healthcare network? Check the MMIT blog each week for more content that is relevant to you.