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Healthy Skepticism International News

UBC Pharma SA Atarax (hydroxyzine)

February 1998

Vol16 Issue 1/2 Our letter about UBC Pharma's promotion of Atarax (hydroxyzine) in the Ivory Coast was based on incorrect information and so has been removed from this Web site. No back issues are available for this issue. A correction statement will be published soon. Reports: Increased US drug consumption driven by increased spending on direct to the consumer promotion

Increased US drug consumption driven by increased spending on direct to the consumer promotion

According to a report in Scrip,2 US pharmaceutical companies spent around $US 1 billion on direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertising during 1997, helping to drive corporate sales and profits to higher levels.

Scrip states that “DTC adverts have become a major marketing force in the industry and a key driver of future growth. Following the easing of FDA restrictions on DTC ads last year, the number of commercials has soared. Spending on advertising climbed to $728 million by the end of October, an audit by Scott-Levin Media has found.

Product categories

Advertising for antihistamines, antifungals, cholesterol reducers, inhaled steroids and calcium channel blockers represented about half of the $728 million in expenditures, according to the Scott-Levin Media audit.

Five drugs accounted for one-third of spending - Hoechst Marion Roussel’s Allegra (fexofenadine), $64.1 million, Schering-Plough’s Claritin (loratadine), $53.7 million, Pfizer’s Zyrtee (cetirizine), $51.2 million, Bristol-Myers Squibb’s hypolipaemic, Pravachol (pravastatin), $49.1 million, and Glaxo Wellcome’s Flonase (fluticasone propionate) nasal spray for allergies, $41.2 million. All except Pravachol are anti-allergy treatments.

Under the new regulations, manufacturers can give their name and that of the product, and its benefits, in TV and radio advertisements. They need only give the product’s major side-effects and must include a referral to a freephone number and a magazine advertisement for other side-effects and interactions (see Scrip No 2258, p 12).

Views of doctors

While DTC advertising is driving up sales, particularly of new products, many doctors are somewhat wary of the concept, according to a recent IMS America survey, which showed that 61% of doctors would like to see manufacturers stop or reduce the frequency of the advertising.

Other findings of the survey include:

41% of doctors believe that DTC advertisements both educate and confuse consumers because they generally lack adequate knowledge about drugs, particularly interactions.
One-third said DTC advertisements are misleading because they fail to educate patients sufficiently about product indications, efficacy, side-effects, etc.
20% feel DTC advertisements disturb the doctor-patient relationship, causing doctors to spend excessive time justifying their prescribing decision and explaining why a requested drug is inappropriate for a particular condition or situation.

 

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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