For those keeping track of direct-to-consumer advertising of prescriptions – and we know that many do – newly released data indicates a slight uptick in promotional spending in recent months. Through the first half of this year, DTC advertising totaled $1.82 billion, a slight 1.2 percent rise over the same period a year earlier, according to DTC Perspectives, an industry consulting firm that cited Kantar Media data.
Why? “The reasons for stabilization are new brands doing heavy DTC,” writes Bob Ehrlich, a former Warner-Lambert executive who runs DTC Perspectives, in his blog. He cites new spending for two drugs – the Toviaz overactive bladder treatment and the Xarelto bloodthinner - reached nearly $80 million. And spending on two testosterone drugs, Androgel and Axiron, almost doubled. Then again, increased spending on four drugs is only part of the picture.
But the overall spending trend is something of a turnabout from the recent past, he notes, when DTC spending slumped thanks to the patent cliff, which meant brand-name drugmakers no longer spent big money to promote their brands. Of course, with more new drugs being approved by the FDA over the past 18 months or so (see this), DTC spending may continue to rise, depending upon the category.
Another fresh example is the Belviq prescription diet pill that is marketed by Eisai and Arena Pharmaceuticals. Although the campaign is too new to generate data, the drugmakers recently began promoting their weight-loss pill directly to consumers, an effort that includes ads that are running in such widely read magazines as ‘O,’ the Oprah Winfrey title.
Not surprisingly, though, some media is faring better than others. DTC spending on television, for instance, rose nearly 3.8 percent, to $1.1 billion during the first half of the year. And Internet advertising climbed 4 percent to $113.6 million. Magazine spending was about flat, while DTC spending in newspapers, billboards and radio all plunged – 27 percent, 39 percent and 48 percent, respectively.
The real trend, however, may be DTC advertising for health services, according to Ehrlich. “Hospitals, doctors, diagnostic test centers, insurance companies, laboratories, mini clinics and genomic services will grow dramatically in the next five years in their spending on marketing. Like it or not, consumers will get less subsidy from employers for health spending,” he writes.
“Higher deductibles and co-pays will force consumers to shop more carefully for their services,” he continues. “…That means there will be a financial incentive to find low cost/high quality providers. The best advertising will be to differentiate one service provider from another and price will be a major factor.”
Of course, consumers will become more cost conscious about medicines, too, as health insurance evolves, especially now that Obamacare has formally begun and more people begin shopping around for affordable plans. This suggests that the type of DTC promotion – at least for some medications - will also transform and may have to emphasize value as much as attributes.
That would be a welcome shift, given the results of a recent study that found potentially misleading claims were made in as many as six of 10 consumer-targeted ads on television. How so? The ads omitted or exaggerated important information, provided opinions or made meaningless associations with lifestyles (back story). This helps explain why a recent survey found that nearly 53 percent of doctors believe DTC advertising should be scaled back and 18 percent say it should be eliminated (more here).
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dtc pic thx to mike licht on flickr