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DTC in Perspective: New Study Says Consumers Want DTC Regulation

November 6, 2015 by Bob Ehrlich0
Bob Ehrlich
“89% want drugs ads to be approved by FDA…” -Bob Ehrlich

The Kaiser Family Foundation recently asked consumers about DTC advertising and drug affordability in a recent poll. There is some good news and bad news for drug advertisers in the poll. The good news is a 51% majority of Americans say DTC advertising is a good thing. While that is not an overwhelming mandate in support of DTC, it is not a bad number.

The concerning poll data was that 89% want drug ads to be approved by FDA before they air. The public has this false perception that drug ads are not well regulated by FDA. While FDA does not by statute pre-clear ads, almost all drug companies voluntarily submit ads before they air to get FDA comments. The drug companies must submit ads to FDA once they air but few will wait that long. No drug company wants to risk a punitive action by airing a violative ad because they face running corrective ads. The public can rest assured that FDA for all practical purposes does pre-review ads.

What is also concerning is that 57% say drug companies spend too much on advertising to consumers. They probably believe that drug companies raise prices to fund ads. As I have written before drug ad spending is only about 2% of revenue. Ending DTC would not cause drug companies to cut prices. In fact by lowering demand, a cut in advertising would probably cause drug companies to raise prices to increase revenue. This idea that drug ads raise prices is continually fueled by ignorant politicians who conveniently rail against drug marketing.

Since Americans think drug prices are too high anything that can cast marketing as the cause is a political winner. The poll said 63% of Americans want government action to lower drug prices. Of course we all want lower drug prices. That would be nice as would lower prices for a lot of things. Most Americans also want cures for disease and to be protected against future pandemics. While explaining the link between drug research and drug prices is complex, I am sure we as an industry could do a better job making the case.

While the poll found nothing shocking, the views of Americans on drug pricing and advertising guarantee it is a juicy election issue. That will keep drug company and advertising industry lobbyists busy fighting against threats of price controls and marketing bans. The drug industry does not deserve to be vilified but I am afraid that will be the case for a long time. All we can do is try to present the facts fairly.

Bob Ehrlich


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