Missing from the bill were any further restrictions on pharmaceutical direct-to-consumer (DTC) drug advertising – according to Liz, some drug safety advocates were calling for a complete ban on DTC ads.
Since the FDA began permitting DTC advertising in 1997, the purpose of the ads has been viewed as less about patient education for underdiagnosed diseases (the original pitch) and more about getting patients to request specific drugs from their physicians.
Precise numbers on the return-on-investment (ROI) of DTC advertising are hard to come by, but one conservative estimate in 2002 by Steven Findlay of the National Institute for Health Care Management (PDF here) is that the most heavily advertised drugs experience sales increases of 20-32%.
DTC advertising has been so successful that Pharma is not the only stakeholder in opposing any restriction on this practice. As reported by the WSJ Health Blog the advertising industry has a remarkably vested interest in the DTC business:
But media and advertising groups were sweating about regulators cutting back on what has become a dependable stream of revenue. In the U.S., drug makers represented the tenth-biggest advertising category in 2006, spending $5.3 billion, or 3.5% of the total $149.6 billion U.S. ad market.
Ed Silverman, Newark Star-Ledger reporter and author of the blog Pharmalot, has more.
I guess we’ll be seeing more of Abe Lincoln and the talking beaver.