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Prescription drug advertising: is it a driving force on drug pricing?

Prescription drug advertising: is it a driving force on drug pricing?

North Carolina Medical Journal 64(6): 289-291

It has been shown that drug companies will sell more drugs when they use DTC advertising, but it is also true that many consumers who are suffering--unaware there is help for their symptoms--will learn from these ads that help is available. Advertising to consumers, like advertising to professionals, will continue to be one of the best methods of providing information. Of course, healthcare professionals also have the sales representatives, their colleagues, medical journals, and medical conventions as additional options for needed information. The consumer may or may not use other methods, such as the Internet, the library or friends or family, but the advertising is a starting point for a dialogue. If the DTC ad provides consumers with "information," which is different from "advertising," the drug company will be providing a worthwhile service to consumers and potential patients. No doubt consumers will begin demanding higher quality information from DTC ads and will frown upon the ads that are blatantly trying just to sell a drug. It will also reap the benefits of improved consumer awareness and patient compliance. A DTC ad that is consumer-friendly, does not use fear appeal, is educational in tone, and downplays the "hard sell" and hype will go a long way in offering important information to the casual observer. Oversight by the FDA will ensure the information meets the requirements they have set down for prescription drug advertising. That is, advertising will be truthful and fairly balanced and will meet what the government, consumers and, no doubt, the medical community wants. Attempting to control drug costs, by controlling advertising, will not be an easy task. This has an implication across all product areas, not just drugs. DTC advertising has become a lightening rod for cost containment issues, but is it alone driving demand for prescription products? I don't think so.

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