Here in the UK, we don’t have direct to consumer (DTC) advertising… yet. The drug companies are pushing for it though, so watch out.
Have a look at the link here to see just what DTC advertising really means.
In the USA, advertising to consumers works in tandem with the huge effort Big Pharma puts in ‘working’ with Doctors to push their products.
The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) is the UK pharmaceutical industry’s main industry body and lobby group. Members include seventy five companies in the UK producing prescription medicines, supplying more than 90 per cent of the medicines prescribed through the National Health Service (NHS).
The ABPI has long been lobbying for relaxation of the regulations governing promotion and advertising of prescription medicine. After the US Food and Drug Administration changed its rules to allow direct-to-consumer (DTC) marketing in 1997 the ABPI began its campaign for DTC marketing in Britain and Europe.
The new rules in the USA have led to a plethora of advertising and PR campaigns promoting prescription drugs. By 2000 american drugs companies were spending $2bn on DTC marketing of branded medicines. Recent PR campaigns have included the spectacle of american celebrities extolling the virtues of particular drugs during chat show appearances.
The Consumers Association objects that marketing will inevitably present a biased viewpoint of drugs, highlighting benefits and not the risks and ignoring non-drug treatments. Patients demanding particular brands will lead to increased costs to the NHS. The CA also points out a lack of any evidence of overall health benefits in the USA as a result of DTC advertising.
The ABPI’s campaign orchestrates both lobbying and public relations in its overall strategy. At a briefing to the Pharmaceuticals Marketing Society in 2000, the ABPI described its “battle plan” thus: “to deploy ground troops in the form of patient support groups, symapthetic medical opinion and healthcare professionals… which will lead the debate on the informed patient issue. This will have the effect of weakening political, ideological and professional defences… Then the ABPI will follow through with high-level precision strikes on specific regulatory enclaves in both Whitehall and Brussels…”
More background on the ABPI can be found here.
Of course, DTC advertising is not about making money for Big Pharma – God forbid – they tell us it’s all about patient education and information…