Promotion to physicians continues to be the dominant form of pharmaceutical marketing, but the amount of money spent on direct-to-consumer advertising continues to grow, as does the number of regulatory letters the Food and Drug Administration sends to drugmakers for minimizing risks and exaggerating effectiveness, according to a report published today in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Total spending on drug marketing grew to $29.9 billion in 2005 from $11.4 billion in 1996, with the percentage of that total spent on direct-to-consumer advertising growing 330%. Drugmakers spent $4.2 billion advertising directly to consumers in 2005, compared with $985 million in 1996the first year such advertising was allowed on television.
An organization critical of direct-to-consumer advertising, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, issued a news release stating that this type of marketing interferes with the doctor-patient relationship and contributes to skyrocketing healthcare costs. It also made a connection between increasing levels of sexually transmitted diseases with men combining the use of illegal drugs and heavily advertised medications for erectile dysfunction.
The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, or PhRMA, issued its own release defending direct-to-consumer marketing. The drug industry group, led by former Rep. Billy Tauzin, said such advertising helps start important doctor-patient conversations about conditions that might otherwise go undiagnosed or untreated.
The statement also cites a set of principles that went into effect in January 2006 that call for ads to feature a balanced presentation of benefits and risks. It also notes that companies are submitting new television commercials to the FDA for review and that PhRMA generally supports legislation that includes a provision for hiring 27 additional FDA employees for the specific purpose of reviewing direct-to-consumer ads. -- by Andis Robeznieks