Very Few Patients Ask Physicians About Advertised Drugs

Pharmacists may be relieved to hear that most patients don't base their health care decisions on what they see on TV.

Pharmacists may be relieved to hear that most patients don’t base their health care decisions on what they see on TV.

A new survey from Treato, an online health care consumer insights firm, revealed that the percentage of patients who ask their physicians about the drugs they see advertised on TV has dropped to just 7% of 529 Treato users, down from 21% last year.

This finding is significant given the fact that 64% of survey respondents said they’ve seen more pharmaceutical advertising this year compared to last year. Notably, patient interest in drug advertising has been waning even as pharmaceutical companies are investing more money in direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertising campaigns.

According to Kantar Media, pharmaceutical companies spent $5.4 billion on DTC advertisements in 2015, representing a 19% increase in DTC spending from 2014. Approximately 66% of total DTC funding in 2015 was spent on TV ads alone.

Other notable findings from the survey with respect to drug advertising on TV include:

· 75% of respondents believed advertisements for erectile dysfunction or low libido drugs should air after 9 PM or not at all.

· 76% of respondents said they’re no more inclined to pay attention to a drug advertisement if it features a celebrity.

· 80% of respondents said they’re no more inclined to pay attention to a drug advertisement if it features an animated character.

· 46% of respondents said pharmaceutical advertisements should be banned from Super Bowl commercial lineups.

Although the survey revealed a strong disdain for DTC advertising among respondents, it doesn’t completely refute findings from other studies that suggests many patients do request certain prescription drugs from their physicians based on what they see on TV.

Pharmacists should remain aware that DTC advertising is a powerful tool for patients. Fortunately, pharmacists are in a great position to describe the risks and benefits of medications that patients frequently see advertised.

The United States and New Zealand are the only countries in the world that currently allow DTC advertising, although a bill recently referred to the US House Committee on Energy and Commerce could restrict it.