Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News
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Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News
Pharmaguy curates and provides insights into selected drug industry news and issues.
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Direct-to-Consumer Advertising (DTCA) Is Effective In Increasing Inappropriate Prescribing, Say Researchers

Direct-to-Consumer Advertising (DTCA) Is Effective In Increasing Inappropriate Prescribing, Say Researchers | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News |

If you needed more evidence as to why drugmakers continue to plunge billions of dollars into direct-to-consumer advertising, look no further than a recent study published in JAMA. In it, researchers found that broadcast DTC ads for drugs treating low testosterone were linked with “substantial overall increases” in patients being tested and treated for the same condition.


Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill investigated this potential link in 75 areas across the U.S. They found that out of 17 million commercially insured men, one million were tested and just over 283,000 began treatment between 2009 and 2013.


“Although the average increase in testosterone rates associated with a single ad exposure was less than 1%, advertisements were widespread and and frequent during the study period, direct-to-consumer advertising was associated with substantial overall increases in testosterone testing and initiation,” the study's' authors wrote.


[Note: The authors also wrote:


“While other studies have demonstrated associations between DTCA and increasing medication use, this study demonstrates increases in potentially inappropriate use and increasing initiation during a time when most testosterone use was of questionable value for age-related testosterone decreases without strong evidence of benefit. Characterizing the role of DTCA in promoting testosterone initiation among a large segment of middle-aged and older men for nonspecific symptoms and age-related declines in testosterone levels is relevant to ongoing policy debates regarding DTCA. This study complements many others that suggest the contribution that DTCA may make in the early adoption of recently approved treatments whose risk-benefit profile may be quite unclear.”


Consider the implications if drug marketers were allowed to promote off-label uses to consumers. In those cases the risk-benefit profile is certainly unclear or unverified by the FDA.]


Further Reading:



The Marketing of Low T.” Adriane Fugh-Berman, MD, Associate Professor at Georgetown University Medical Center and Director of PharmedOut discusses how the marketing of Androgel uses ghostwriting, celebrities, symptom quizzes, and numbers to convince men and physicians that "low testosterone" is a medical condition that should be treated.

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"Desperate Turds" Print Ad: How Long Have They Been Trapped in That A-Hole?

"Desperate Turds" Print Ad: How Long Have They Been Trapped in That A-Hole? | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News |

Are you constipated? Well, if it's caused by your opioid pain medication, you might need prescription Movantik (read "Cam Newton Was Not the Only One 'Blocked' During Super Bowl 50").But if it's just run of the mill "occasional constipation," you might try an over-the-counter product such as Dulcolax Laxative by Boehringer Ingelheim.

I recently came across a Dulcolax print ad,  which ran in Singapore newspapers and bus shelters and which was on a 2014 shortlist under the outdoor category at Lions Health (read "Pharma Advertising is So Bad It Has No Big Winner at Cannes Lions Health 2014").

Creative advertising people have labeled the ad "Desperate Turds."


Yep! It's a view of turds (Scheisse) trapped inside an A-hole! The tagline -- along with a photo of a Dulcolax Laxative package -- is expressed in a turd's thought balloon: “Only you can set them free”.

As is often the case with OTC drug ads, the "Desperate Turds" ad misrepresents the effectiveness of Dulcolax Laxative to treat occasional constipation. More here...

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Pharmacists Say DTC Advertising Must Go: It's "Not Working" & Wastes Resources

Pharmacists Say DTC Advertising Must Go: It's "Not Working" & Wastes Resources | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News |

This week a national pharmacist group, the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, joined the physicians of the American Medical Association in a call to ban DTC ads (see here).


ASHP had been provisionally tolerant of DTC ads--that is, it was unopposed as long as the advertising met certain prerequisites. It had to be educational, using easy to understand language for benefits and risks; include directions for adverse event reporting; and promote safety and allow informed decisions.


It became clear to the group that those standards were largely being ignored by pharma companies, said Kasey Thompson, chief operating officer and senior VP of ASHP’s office of policy, planning and communications. So ASHP revoked its provisional support.


“There is no question that patient education is important--even some patient education provided by the pharmaceutical industry,” he told FiercePharmaMarketing, adding that, “[A]t the end of the day, a complete ban isn't achievable--we all know the arguments about first amendment rights and free speech--but I think what our delegates are trying to achieve here is to force a conversation between the industry and the healthcare provider community.”


Physicians and pharmacists spend too much time having to explain TV ad drugs that aren’t appropriate for patients, he said, and overall “the model out now for DTC isn’t working.” He said the ASHP's move, along with the AMA’s decision, are signals from the healthcare community that it’s time for a change.


“Pharma does great things in terms of innovation, and we need this industry. It’s not trying to limit innovation and R&D. It’s about utilizing scarce resources in the most effective ways possible and we think, as the AMA thinks, that direct-to-consumer advertising is not an optimal use of resources," Thompson said. "There must be a better way for smart well-intentioned people that are focused on the patient can arrive at."

Pharma Guys insight:

The comments from the ASHP regarding the failure of DTC advertising & its tepid nod to pharma's patient educational efforts come soon after the industry's DTC "creative" ad agencies patted itself on the back at the Cannes Lion Health Festival (more on that here:

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