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Study of DTC ads includes some surprises.

CHARLESTON, S.C. -- Television advertising of prescription drugs may actually be prompting more people to visit their doctors rather than substantially increasing sales of advertised products, according to research led by the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC).

Initial results of an ongoing project at MUSC that examines direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertising of COX-2 inhibitor drugs has been published in the September/October issue of the journal Health Affairs.

Because the use of DTC advertising by pharmaceutical firms continues to accelerate, MUSC researchers, joined by colleagues from Pennsylvania State University, questioned what the advertising was actually influencing. They reported on two drugs--Merck & Co.'s Vioxx and Pfizer Inc.'s Celebrex--in a study that sought to determine whether pharmaceutical companies can influence physician and patient decisions about adopting pharmaceutical therapy.

"It's not been established whether DTC has a larger effect on stimulating prescribing by physicians or on encouraging patients to go to visit their physicians more frequently," comments David Bradford, professor at the center for health economic and policy studies at MUSC. "We found that for both Vioxx and Celebrex, DTC tended to increase visits by patients with osteoarthritis to their physicians.

"Once patients got to the doctor's office, advertising was not the biggest factor affecting prescribing. We tended to find class-level effects."

He points out that Vioxx advertising led to small increases in prescribing for both Vioxx and Celebrex.

"One conclusion we found is that DTC may not be the universally pernicious practice that people are worried about," he says. "It does get patients to their doctors and, once there, we see mixed results in prescribing."

What impact DTC advertising may have on patients and physicians is of major importance, maintain Bradford and his core-searchers.

"Pharmaceutical spending represents a large percentage of total spending in state Medicaid programs: even moderate changes in prescribing for a small number of products can lead to dramatic changes in Medicaid spending," they write in Health Affairs.

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Title Annotation:RX/BRANDED DRUGS, direct-to-consumer
Publication:Chain Drug Review
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 25, 2006
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