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Healthy Skepticism Library item: 20176

Warning: This library includes all items relevant to health product marketing that we are aware of regardless of quality. Often we do not agree with all or part of the contents.

 

Publication type: Magazine

MacKinven M
DTC advertising isn't a black and white issue
Australian Doctor 1999 Nov 1019


Full text:

Public advertising of prescription medicine isn’t all bad for GPs, a researcher deduces in her pilot study of Auckland region doctors.

UNITEC lecturer in communication Phillippa Lowe sent questionnares about direct-to-consumer advertising to 99 GPs in July. Of these, 58 completed the four multiple choice questions and three questions about positive and negative implications of the advertising trend.

Analysis shows some doctors think a more informed patient is more motivated, eg, seeing an advertisement on television may remind them to take their pill, or make them more confident about using the medicine.

Knowledge levels differ among patients, but people are generally more assertive and motivated to ask their doctor for a particular brand of drug.

Some GPs feel requests create opportune times to exchange views or for the doctor to do a through examination of the patient.

“Most patients still want the doctor’s opinion and recommendation, but are using clinic time to further educate themselves”, Ms Lowes says.

Sometimes advertising makes patients aware solutions to their problems do exist, and can provide an easy way to get help, eg, asking for Viagra be a lot easier than saying “I’m impotent”.

Most doctors (88 per cent) say patients ask for particular treatments more often these days and 92 percent believe that increase is due to consumer advertising.

Patients request treatment only sometimes, 58 per cent of doctors say. The others are equally split in believing this happens often or seldom.

On the down side, GPs say, some patients are beyond requesting and demand particular brands. Some doctor have felt pressured to prescribe something they’re not convinced is in the patient’s best interest, or when refusing the request have lost the patient’s confidence or been threatened with a change of doctor.

One doctor felt the only way to keep ahead of patients was to check the internet regularly herself.

Often patients only know the good side of the medicine, not the side effects, the contraindications or financial cost. They often have unrealistic expectations, GPs say.

Most drugs advertised direct-to-consumer are not subsidised. It can be difficult to persuade people a cheaper alternative is available to the one they want.

Ms Lowe hopes to conduct a wider study on the topic next year, perhaps nationally or internationally.

 

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What these howls of outrage and hurt amount to is that the medical profession is distressed to find its high opinion of itself not shared by writers of [prescription] drug advertising. It would be a great step forward if doctors stopped bemoaning this attack on their professional maturity and began recognizing how thoroughly justified it is.
- Pierre R. Garai (advertising executive) 1963