Doctors' offices form DTC front line

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A consumer is most likely to notice pharmaceutical advertising while at a physician's office, hospital or pharmacy, says Traver Hutchins, president of MediZine, a 3.5 million-circulation health magazine distributed at pharmacies and doctor's offices.

Mr. Hutchins contends consumers at a "point of care distribution" tend to most trust messages they receive from health experts.

Thus, DTC pharmaceutical advertising has moved a step closer to the physician-patient encounter by marketing pharmaceuticals in physicians' offices, says Elizabeth Moench, president of marketing communications company Medicigroup, King of Prussia, Pa.

In response to DTC advertising in physicians' offices, the American Medical Association last year set up its own DTC guidelines.

"The medical profession needs to take an active role in ensuring that proper advertising guidelines are enforced and that the care patients receive is not compromised as a result of direct-to-consumer advertising," AMA stated.


But the point of DTC is to get as close as possible to the place where the prescription is being written, says Mike Collette, president, On Target Health Solutions, a Cincinnati-based marketing communications company.

"There needs to be enough benefit and value in it for [doctors] to accept it," Mr. Collette says. With DTC, "the educational materials [placed at point-of-care distribution] are where the doctor needs them. They don't have to walk down the hall to look in a sample closet."

On Target's most recent project, "Healthy Advice for Women," distributes free display posters to mammography centers.

Sponsors Miacalcin nasal spray from Novartis Pharmaceutical Corp., Ditropan XL for overactive bladders from Alza Pharmaceuticals and Cenestin, a hormone-replacement therapy from Duramed Pharmaceuticals, advertise on the posters alongside a chart of risk factors for breast cancer and sets of free information booklets.

"When women go to a mammography center, they are focused on their breast health. It is the perfect forum to educate them on breast health options," says Debra Ventura, product promotions manager, AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals.

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