Big Pharma cut DTC spending by 8% in 2008. It was the first such reduction in the 10 years since the FDA eased restrictions on the practice. DTC spending dropped from $4.8 billion in 2007 to $4.4 billion last year, according to IMS Health.
The drop-off has been chalked up to reductions in new drug introductions and a bit of ill-will directed at the industry by the public and congress.
Critics claim the advertisements, which are proscribed in most countries, inflate costs by encouraging people to request brand-name drugs in lieu of less expensive alternatives.
In response, PhRMA, Big Pharma’s trade group, points to a 6 year-old FTC statement claiming the ads inform consumers about medication options and have not been proven to cause health care cost escalations.
And Pfizer spokesperson Sally Beatty insisted to the Wall Street Journal that its ads raise awareness of health conditions.
“Erectile dysfunction… can be a signal for other serious medical issues, including high blood pressure, diabetes and cardiovascular disease,” she said.
Big Pharma adds that DTC constitutes only 40% of its marketing expenses for prescription drugs.
The remainder targets physicians.
Merck and the Plough, which jointly market Vytorin, shaved their DTC spend on the cholesterol buster from $114 million to $47 million, according to IMS.
That came after Michigan congressmen John Dingell and Bart Stupak denounced the companies for pushing the drug while delaying release of a study that showed Vytorin was no better for most patients than generic equivalents.
“We felt this temporary suspension was appropriate in light of the news coverage,” a Merck spokesperson told the Journal.
Even Abraham Lincoln, in his new role as Rozerem pitchman, took a hit.
Takeda cut DTC advertising for the sleeper by 90% to $14 million. We’re going to miss you too, Abe.