DTC Pharmaceutical Marketing

I think the level of banality in television advertising is reflective of the across-the-board poverty of imagination in our culture.  Clever has disappeared, nostalgic is waving good-bye, and topics which used to be unspeakable in polite company have taken their spots. 

Honestly, who cares to have female cycles and male malfunctions trumpeted in his or her living room?

I woke up this morning wondering when/how/why things had changed. 

Pharmaceutical companies used to hawk their wares in medical journals and with sales reps in doctors’ offices.  In 1997 the FDA relaxed restrictions and a new acronym was born.  DTC.  Direct to consumer.  The United States and New Zealand are the only countries which allow DTC advertising.  The amounts spent on persuasion of the consumer, according to this Wikipedia article, have grown from $700 million in 1997 to $4 billion in 2004.

Do you remember the early commercials and the problems they promised to fix?  Hair loss, allergies and arthritis.  Next came depression, high blood pressure, restless legs and the fluttering butterflies which were a picture of uninterrupted sleep.  Before long we’re talking about female cycles and male malfunctions.  What could possibly come next?  Abortificants?  Advertising for STD drugs? 

What are the ramifications of this massive cultural change? 

The belief that prescription drugs will fix any problem you have is increasing.  The normalization of popping pills has already occurred.  The patient now leads the doctor, initiating exams and demanding the purple pill.  There is no or precious little thought about side effects, complicating the chemistry of the body; we steadfastly ignore lifestyle changes which could ameliorate the condition.

Visual History of Pharmaceutical Drug Ads
Article debating pros and cons of DTC
Pro-DTC article

“Better living through chemistry”  has become the motto of our people. 

I’m reading this with the words from a friend echoing in my ears: “There are no billings for AMG386 because it’s an experimental drug. I am thankful for the drug companies.”  Drugs really can make a difference in the quality of life.  My objection is to DMC.

9 thoughts on “DTC Pharmaceutical Marketing

  1. This post began while we were watching the World Series.  Little Miss Naivety saw a commercial and said, “WHAT is E.D.?”  After a minute of awkward silence, I blushed and said, “Uh, don’t answer that question.”  My son buried his face in his hands and my niece looked at me with an commiserating shrug. 

  2. “I woke up this morning wondering when/how/why things had changed.”We-el-l-l….I remember the time……..It all began a few years back when O.H.S.U. was in the national spotlight for their patient trials re: RU-486 and then, we had someone in the White House who made phrases like “or*l s*x” and “b*dily fl*ids” commonplace in every newscast, newspaper and (the most horrid) tabloids in the grocery check-out.Soon, all over the country, the innocence of children was in jeopardy because the ‘questions’ they asked were outlandish just being vebalised.

  3. I had the same issue come up when watching a Seahawks game with Noah – who is 9. A drug commercial came on for an ED drug – and they are getting more direct and explicit all the time. Luckily, I was able to deflect, but come on? Don’t they know families watch sports together?


  4. Preach it friend!!My guys groan and fly for the remote when these come on. It embarrasses everyone! I have seen loads antidepression ads already. You might be interested in anything by Dr. Peter Breggan who wrote “Talking Back to Prozac” and “Ritalin Nation”.The astronomical dollar amount associated with this part of the drug industry is mind boggling.The “normal” response today is drug it… anything but deal with it. And they want us to keep it that way! Thank you for speaking to what is bugging all of us! love you, M in SC

  5. “There are no billings for AMG386 because it’s an experimental drug. I am thankful for the drug companies.”

    The context of that statement was “(She) has reached week 52 on the Avastin/AMG386 study on 10/15. During that period she’s had 16 infusions of Avastin and 50 infusions of AMG386. The cumulative billings for Avastin for the 52 weeks are approximately $281,700. There are no billings for AMG386 because it’s an experimental drug. I am thankful for the drug companies.”

    I know nobody is saying drugs do not have their useful function; where would we be without anesthesia? Even the drugs in this post and comments have their proper use and application. It’s the marketing and abuse of the drugs that are objectionable.

    The effectiveness of the multiples of millions that are spent annually by drug companies on television advertising is highly questionable. Does anyone know anyone who has asked their doctor for a drug based on a television ad?

    I love the tv ad for Neulasta. It says (several times), “I’m ready for chemotherapy!” Neulasta injections replenish white blood cells and cause intense bone pain for most patients. They don’t tell you that.

    Having said all of that I am thankful for the drug companies because … well just because.

  6. DA,Thanks for putting the comment in its context.  Not only do certain drugs increase the quality of life, at times they keep life -threatening disease at bay.  You don’t need to be told that.Curt had a staph infection that hospitalized him for a week.  Vancomycin was the only drug that kept the staph at bay; it was the barrier between him and death.  It cost $1400/day.  I wasn’t griping about pharmaceutical corporations at that point.  More recently, Collin had a ruptured appendix and peritonitis; again we needed the heavy duty drugs to conquer the infection.Like you said, the marketing is the offense.  It is intrusive and tacky.  It was the ubiquitous ED ads during the World Series which made me crazy.Thanks for your comment,CarolPS – We pray for V and you and family daily.

  7. In my Chronic Pain Management introductory class, the doctor running the program had plenty to say about the pharmaceutical companies, and it wasn’t good. Yes, he also agrees that proper use of pharmaceuticals can be very useful, but the companies go to a great deal of effort to make sure they make an optimum amount for pills that could be much less expensive–which would certainly be beneficial to those of us needing them! It was a long discussion, so i won’t go on, but yes, he felt they really play on the consumer’s emotional needs…

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