Today, the most popular media through which the public get to know about the pharmaceutical products is through Direct-to-Consumer Advertising. Since drugs and other pharmaceuticals are involved, it is consequently referred to as ‘Direct-to-Consumer pharmaceutical advertising DTCPA’ (Pardun, 2009). Though the Federal Drug Agency ‘FDA’ regulates this sector, there are many critics that have been leveled against it. The critics say that the rules and regulations are too relaxed. Some also say that DTCPA is both detrimental and beneficial to the society. These arguments are balance, with opposes and proposers both making good points. There have been actions aimed at minimizing risks and maximizing benefits of DTCA, nevertheless, no actual remedy has been found yet.
What is Direct –to-Consumer Advertising? How does it relate to Direct-to-Consumer Pharmaceutical Advertising? Direct-to-consumer Advertising is just an effort by a company via popular media to promote its products. Direct-to-Consumer Pharmaceutical Advertising relates to drugs and pharmaceutical products. DTCPA relates to the efforts made by pharmaceutical companies, via social and other popular media to sell its prescriptions. Currently, only New Zealand and the United States allow DTCPA. Though many lobby groups have tried to overturn the ban of DTCPA, no positive action has been taken by the authority. The European Union has also tried to allow DTCPA but it failed when most voted against it (Pardun, 2009).
There are three kinds of DTCPA; one, ‘the product claim ad’. This type of advertising mentions the product and the indication thereof shows safety or efficacy. Two, there is ‘reminder ad’. This kind of advertising includes the name of the product. It also contains information on its price, dosage and strength (Bart, 2014). The third and final type of ad is ‘the help-seeking ad’. This type of ad does not in any way mention the name of the medication. It only gives the name of a medical condition and advises the consumer to seek help from a doctor in case he or she has the condition. The type of advertising depends on the pharmaceutical company and the kind of information them want to put in the public domain (Pardun, 2009).
There are several media used by the pharmaceutical companies to do their Direct-to-Consumer Advertising (DTA). Some companies prefer to use newspapers, other magazines and sometimes direct mailing and billboards. These are all promotion media. Nevertheless, there are some companies that have gone as far as use social media such as Facebook and twitter. Most of these companies are after the younger clientele because they are the ones that use social media more than their older counterparts. Internet has also been a great medium of advertising. Through all these and more like the sending of professional to do the advertising, pharmaceutical companies have made a kill. Television and radio have also been a good source of advertising to be used as a mode of advertising. Since many television channels and radio stations do not have age limits, the advertising by pharmaceutical companies reach a wider market (Bart 2014).
The Federal Drug Agency, has a department for the ‘advertising, marketing and communication’ of Direct-to-Consumer pharmaceutical products. The FDA was given the mandate to check and approve any issue related with the advertising of drugs and medical products as a result of the congress passing a statute in 1938. This statute was called ‘Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act’ (Bart, 2014). In addition, in 1962, the federal government squarely put the authority of advertising, regulation and prescription of drugs under the authority of the FDA. Such regulations set by the FDA include not giving false or misleading information, providing a balance between the benefits and risks associated with the drug and giving material facts about the product. Another rule that was given was that when the patient went to get the advertised drug, it must be out of free will and need. It must not be because of coercion. FDA’s own website gives the questions that patients must ask before purchasing a drug which they saw being advertised in the television or they heard being advertised in the radio.
There are many economic consequences associated with Direct-to-Consumer Pharmaceutical Advertising. For instance, the increase in health insurance coverage coupled with the increase in sales of prescription drugs which increase in price as the demand grows. There are no unethical practices associated with this. People just become more aware of the drugs as a result of the advertising. They therefore do not have to go to hospitals which will increase the costs both financially and timely. Steven D. Findlay, the director of ‘the National Institute for Health Care Management Research and educational Foundation’ was the one that pointed this fact out. He argued that the belief that DTCPA gave the medical sector losses as a result of the advertising was but a myth. He added that the prescription drugs that did their direct advertising to consumers recorded a profit increase of 32 per cent. The drugs which were not advertised only recorded about 12-13 percent up to increase in revenue and profits.
A point to note away from the profits and losses that are associated with DTCPA is the ethics associated with the advertising. When these companies make these advertisements, they make them for general audience. Many lawmakers in the country have continuously argued about the validity and ethics of Direct-to-Consumer Pharmaceutical Advertising. Nevertheless, unlike its North American counterpart, the United State has maintained that DTCPA is legal. Perhaps it is because of the fact that it is very costly both by resourced and time. All in all, prescription drugs are being advertised. It may have some risks, but the benefits outweigh the risks. Therefore, honesty and decency must be considered, many companies use celebrity advertising to advertise their pharmaceutical products. This in some quarters may be seen as wrong because in many cases, the celebrity does not even know the product. Thus, issues about honesty are considered here. All in all, Direct-to-Consumer Pharmaceutical Advertising (DTCPA) or simply Direct-to-Consumer Advertising (DTA) is a good way to promote prescription drugs. Many countries that have banned it give the reason that it promotes sicknesses as an excuse. Nevertheless, the benefits cannot be overlooked. The advertising not only makes a prescription drug known to a person who may fall sick and waste both time and resources to go to hospital, it also gives the patient an easy way of getting healed. In many opinions, including that author’s, it is not wrong. Yet, it has its own disadvantages and risks. For instance, as opposes put it, it encourages sicknesses and over the counter drug taking which is not advisable in the country.
Direct-to-consumer advertising is a good method for advertising pharmaceutical products to the consumers directly. It is a good practice because consumers of pharmaceutical products in most cases the patients have a chance in making their personal medical decisions. “Allowing patients to participate in the decision-making process supports the patient’s right to consent (David, & Markowitz, 2011)”. Patients have the right to consent or refusal of medical processes to be conducted to them. “Direct-to-consumer advertising supports and gives the patient a chance to take part in making decisions for their own health (Bar, & Lillard, 2014)”.
Direct-to-consumer advertising is also good because the practice is governed by clearly stated rules. The rules state that the information regarding the pharmaceutical product should be disclosed entirely to the patient. Communication about the product is made in a timely manner, which allows consumers to make their decision well. The information given to patients is truthful and balanced in this kind of advertising. “This is advantageous to the patient because they are able to make well-informed decisions regarding their health (Dave, & Saffer, 2010)”.
In a study, Direct-to-consumer advertising proved to make patients consume the drugs prescribed to them by the health care professionals. Patients are happy when they take an active role making decisions regarding to their health. The patient gets encouraged to comply with the prescription and continue with the treatment. Through direct-to-consumer, advertising patients are not only likely to complete the prescribed drugs but to continue purchasing more products. The study showed that patients who acquired their drugs through Direct-to-consumer advertising were a better place to continue with treatment after their first dose was over. Therefore, Direct-to-consumer advertising encourages patients to be active in making medical decisions for them.
Another advantage of Direct-to-consumer advertising includes enhancing patient education. Health practitioners are able to educate their patients more about medical conditions and how pharmaceutical products work. This improves the patients understanding of their health conditions. Increased patient education contributes to patient empowerment. The patient is able to search for information about their medical conditions. Patients who have used Direct-to-consumer advertising reported that they felt it easier for them to ask questions about medical conditions. Some of the questions they asked were related to medical conditions that people rarely discuss. Therefore, an increase in patient education that is caused by Direct-to-consumer advertising contributes to diagnosis of conditions that may have been ignored by patients.
Direct-to-patient advertising leads to improved patient-provider relationships. The improved relationship makes it easier for discussions between patients and the medical practitioners. Discussions about medical conditions and pharmaceutical products contribute to further research and drug reengineering. Direct-to-patient advertising contributes to a medical condition reviews. During the review discussions, the patient can explain to the provider how they feel after taking the drug. If the medical condition is not getting better or if the drug has harmful and unexpected side effects then the drug is improved (Salek, & Edgar, 2002). This is an advantage to pharmacists; they are able to evaluate the performance of their products. This leads them to designing medicine that is more effective.
Direct-to-consumer advertising for pharmaceutical products has a number of advantages and should be implemented in the health system. This will allow patient participation and dispose relevant information to patients. Well-informed patients are better placed to make decisions regarding their health.
Bar, T., & Lillard, D. R. (2014). Direct to consumer advertising of pharmaceutical drugs information and persuasion. Cambridge, Mass.: National Bureau of Economic Research.
Bar, T., Lillard, D. R., & National Bureau of Economic Research (2014). Direct to consumer advertising of pharmaceutical drugs: Information and persuasion. Cambridge, Mass: National Bureau of Economic Research.
Dave, D., & Saffer, H. (2010). The impact of direct-to-consumer advertising on pharmaceutical prices and demand. Cambridge, Mass.: National Bureau of Economic Research.
David, G., & Markowitz, S. (2011). Side effects of competition the role of advertising and promotion in pharmaceutical markets. Cambridge, Mass.: National Bureau of Economic Research.
Direct-to-Consumer Pharmaceutical Advertising. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3278148/
Pardun, C. J. (2009). Advertising and society: Controversies and consequences. Chichester, U.K: Wiley-Blackwell.
Salek, S., & Edgar, A. (2002). Pharmaceutical ethics. New York: J. Wiley.