Direct to Consumer (DTC) advertising occurs whenever an advertisement is viewed by someone who doesn’t have the ability to go out and purchase that product on their own. In the US, the most common form of DTC advertising comes from the pharmaceutical industry. The promotions discuss the advantages a drug may have, but then encourages the individual who is viewing the ad to discuss the drug with their doctor. As with any type of marketing, direct to consumer advertising pros and cons must be considered when evaluating the value of these efforts. Here are the key points to consider on the subject.
The Pros of Direct to Consumer Advertising
1. It provides consumers with educational opportunities about new drugs.
When patients see their health care professional, they often don’t know anything about the drugs their doctor will prescribe for them. By having advertisements about new drugs available to patients, they can ask their doctor about alternative medicines which might be right for them.
2. It may encourage patients to seek out earlier treatments.
Early diagnosis and treatment is the key to defeating just about every disease known to mankind right now. Cancer especially becomes easier to treat and place into remission with early detection. DTC advertising helps to raise patient awareness of the potential warning signs of a serious illness so early treatment becomes more of a possibility.
3. The images of the advertising is often appealing.
There are many people who don’t like to go to the doctor. Up to 1 in 10 people are even afraid of visiting the doctor. It isn’t because of denial. It is an actual fear. The appealing images that are contained within the average DTC advertising can help to place tense minds at ease.
4. Doctors often fulfill patient drug requests.
Patients who take charge of their health and have a positive mindset about it often have a good chance of recovering even from a serious disease. When DTC advertising gives someone hope because they see a new drug which hasn’t been recommended to them before, then that hope can become a powerful healing tool.
5. There are multiple resources available to answer patient questions.
People can go to their pharmacist if they wish to have questions answered about a drug they’re interested in using. They can read pamphlets, brochures, and other information. It isn’t just the doctor today that becomes a resource about medication thanks to DTC advertising.
The Cons of Direct to Consumer Advertising
1. It can lead to false health scares.
DTC advertising often discusses what symptoms can be resolved when the drug is taken as instructed. This can cause people to hear those symptoms, think that they’ve experienced them as well, and then believe they also have the issue or disease being discussed. In return, patients spend money on their health care that didn’t need to be spent.
2. It increases patient costs.
Are the drug manufacturers going to just eat the cost of DTC advertising? Will the distributors pay for some of that cost? Of course not. Advertising costs are built into the prices of the drugs being distributed. This means it is ultimately the patient who pays more for the medicine they need because of these marketing efforts.
3. The side effects a drug may cause are often under-stated.
In a TV DTC ad, you’ll often hear the narrator speak about the side effects as fast as they can. The other option is to present the side effects in a loving, caring voice that says, “You don’t need to worry about these.” Side effects must be considered as part of the diagnostic process, but unfortunately they tend to be overlooked by those exposed to the advertising in question.
4 The health benefits which can be obtained tend to be over-stated.
If 1 person in a 100 can have a complete cure from a new medication, then the drug manufacturer can present a DTC ad which says there is the possibility of a cure happening. It doesn’t matter if the cure rate is just 1%.
5. It encourages the use of medication when it may not always be necessary.
There are some conditions which can benefit from lifestyle changes and non-drug treatments. Thanks to DTC advertising, however, many patients are looking for a quick fix that the drug seems to promise instead of the work it may take to reclaim their health.
In the long run, it may be fair to say that the pros and cons of direct to consumer advertising can drive up the health care costs for everyone. Does it also potentially increase the health of those who seek out treatment because of the advertising? That is also possible. This is why each key point must be carefully considered before determining how one feels about this particular subject.