DRUG MARKETERS CHALLENGE STUDY CHIDING DTC ADS: REPORT LINKS GROWTH IN RX USE TO BOOM IN CONSUMER ADS

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Pharmaceutical marketers and ad groups are challenging a study that suggests the loosening of controls over direct-to-consumer drug advertising has fueled an increase in usage.

The study, released last week by the National Institute for Health Care Management, said while overall healthcare costs increased 5.5% a year from 1992 to 1997, consumer spending on prescription drugs increased 11% during the same period and may have grown 18% by the end of 1998.

The greatest increase is in

four categories-oral antihistamines,

anti-depressants, cholesterol-reducing drugs and anti-ulcer remedies-that include seven of the 10 most-advertised drugs in 1998.

ADS 'EMPOWER' CONSUMERS

The advertising "empowers the patients, addresses the problems of underdiagnosis and undertreatment, and increases the dialog between doctors and patients," said a spokeswoman for the Pharmaceutical Research & Manufacturers Association.

The cost increases so far have been borne by health insurers and employers, but are about to be borne by consumers, warned institute President Nancy Chockley, who questions whether the spending is fully justified or might be explained by the fact that consumers are taking drugs they don't need.

Unnecessary prescriptions for high-price drugs will raise costs that eventually will be transferred to consumers, she said.

FOUR A'S: 'LOT OF GOOD'

While admitting that DTC Rx advertising has increased drug sales, ad groups suggest that is not necessarily bad. Executives suggest the benefit of having smarter consumers who more often turn to doctors outweighs the additional costs.

"A lot of good is coming from this. If you go down the list of conditions that are being treated, they can add greatly to the quality of and length of life, and the advertising is performing one of the fundamental purposes of advertising-to inform the people," said Hal Shoup, exec VP of the American

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