Big Pharma Continues to Rely on Marketing to Consumers
DTC advertising for prescription drugs is alive and well. Companies spent $2.16 billion through the end of October 2002--$216 million per month--a 4.4% increase over the monthly industry spend rate from 2001. In a year characterized by belt-tightening decisions, this step-up in spending reflects just how crucial it is for pharmaceuticals to steer consumers towards high-margin drugs.
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At Windhover's annual Marketing Pharmaceutical Innovation (MPI) conference in November, industry executives wrestled with an emerging dilemma -- how to win managed care's support for drugs that exhibit only minor improvements to existing products, while new over-the-counter (OTC) options surface.
While DTC ads work when the end consumer is an able judge of product performance, as with medications for seasonal allergies, sexual dysfunction, or hair loss, they don't work nearly as well for asymptomatic illnesses. For these conditions, DTC may help increase patient acquisition and trial, but often fails to improve long-term use, thus under-performing both clinical expectations for patients and financial expectations for manufacturers. Optimal DTC programs should integrate patient acquisition strategies with direct-to-patient support strategies such as, disease-state web sites, refill reminder programs, and financial incentives able to drive ongoing product use.
In a comparison of direct-to-the-consumer advertising strategies, Health Resource found that compliance ad campaigns can be more cost-effective than switch campaigns.