The Many Hidden Truths of Pharmaceutical Advertising

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Pharmaceutical advertising has come a long way in past thirty years.  In the last 10 years alone pharmaceuticals have become the top advertised products in the world. Advertisers have taken products that could not be simply obtained and made prescription drugs more requested by the consumer. This created a hype that cannot be matched by any other field of goods. Here are some brief facts of just how far this industry has come.

1981 – Direct consumer advertising was only done to providers

1985 – Pharmaceuticals were allowed to be advertised, however only with restrictions. Pharmaceutical advertising companies were not allowed to mention the name of the drug or the company that produces it.

1997 – The Food and Drug Administration allowed pharmaceutical companies to advertise the drug as well as the company’s corporate name. The first televised ads were required to meet restrictions that had to be balanced and truthful.

1999 – Drug sales went up as high as 1.8 million dollars from 1998.

2001 – Pharmaceutical companies spent 2 billion dollars on advertising, this increased demands by five percent, which equaled 8.5 million people. 6.2 million Americans were known to be abusers of prescription drugs, which were more than abusers of cocaine, ecstasy, and heroin combined. Ads for prescription drugs were categorized on how people perceived them.

• 43% of ads appealed to fear

• 31% of ads used humor

• 31% of ads used the joy of relationships

• 9% used guilt

All of these were in the parameters that The Food and Drug Administration set four years prior. Consumers were surveyed about how they perceived the commercials.

• 46% said that they where more responsive to ads they saw on television.

• 20% where more responsive to magazine ads

• 62% said someone clued them into a medication they could take for their       ailment.

• 43% said if their health care provider would cover the cost of the drug, they would push for an accommodation to obtain the drug.

2002 – Government was spending 12.6 billion dollars on national drug control strategy, targeting the illicit use of prescription drugs.

2003 – Pete Stark, a Democrat Congressman from the state of California and ranking member of the house Ways and Means Health Subcommittee tried to push through “The Fair Balance Prescription Drug Advertisement Act.” Today this act is currently bottled up in a subcommittee. The prescriptive drug abusers have quadrupled since 2000. In 12 months, 53 million patients have made requests for advertised drugs. 12.1 million requested drugs were prescribed. Consumer advocates considered more than half the advertising contained misrepresentation of their product.

2005 – Just like alcohol and tobacco, the Direct Consumer spending of pharmaceutical industry advertising must now conform to government regulation; hopefully, mandates will also be placed upon advertisement of prescription drugs. Pharmaceutical promotion has grown from $11.4 billion in 1996 to $29.9 billion worldwide. Although during that time spending on direct-to-consumer advertising increased by 330%.

2012 – Pharmaceutical advertising in pharmaceuticals is forecast to reach $11.4 billion in the United States alone by the year 2017. Major factors driving growth in the market include new drug launches, increasing returns from advertising drugs, patent expiry of drugs and looming threat of generics, emergence of novel media channels, and growing use of Internet as a media for communication and information.

With the pharmaceutical market reaching out directly to the public and hitting all time highs in all media markets, it makes one wonder what drives Pharmaceutical companies…… Healthcare or dollars?

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