Survey notes pros, cons of DTC drug ads

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Direct-to-consumer advertising for pharmaceuticals has led to a more “inquisitive” patient, but doctors are concerned about how these ads shape patients’ understanding of the medications, a new microsurvey by InCrowd finds.

The physicians poll by InCrowd, a provider of real-time market intelligence to life sciences and health care firms, revealed that the estimated $5.4 billion DTC drug ad spend in the United States has created “a more aware and engaged patient,” in turn spurring important interactions between doctors and patients.

PILLS-dPhysicians surveyed reported receiving three times the number of questions as a result of DTC pharmaceutical ads than five years ago, from an average of one question a week to three a week.

Still, doctors noted a lack of understanding by patients in terms of what’s presented in the ads. When asked if their patients grasp the information provided by the pharmaceutical companies in ads, 65% of physicians said no.

Similarly, 87% of doctors saw some level of patient confusion with the ads, and 43% said “some of my patients” can understand or interpret them. Meanwhile, 41% said “few” patients understand the ads, and 3% said that “none of my patients” can understand the ads. Just 13% of physicians said “most of my patients can interpret/understand” these ads, according to InCrowd.

In other findings, 49% of physicians said the ads generally impair or confuse their patients’ understanding of their condition, the treatment and risks that may occur. Sixteen percent indicated that the ads led to an improved understanding by patients of their condition, treatment options and risks, and 35% thought the ads had no effect on their patients.

“It’s important to build patient awareness of new treatments. And our physician response suggests U.S. physicians think the pharma industry is doing well on that aim with DTC ads, and that these doctors are considering how best to integrate them into their practice,” commented Diane Hayes, president and co-founder of Boston-based InCrowd. “Yet as Congress targets the need to lower prescription drug prices, the pharma industry needs to listen carefully to physician insights on better structuring their DTC-ad programs for information clarity and increased benefit to both patient and physician.”


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