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    How to combat TV drug ads the right way

    During the recent election, much was made about the unprecedented level of spending on political advertising, with more than $4.2 billion spent on Congressional races alone in 2016. But consider this: Direct-to-consumer-advertising (DCTA) for prescription medications, for TV and print ads alone, hit the $5.2 billion mark in 2015, according to STAT, a new publication launched by Boston Globe Media.  Note, that the $5.2 billion figure does not include the fast-growing, but harder to measure, amount being spent for eDTCA, drug ads online including ones on social media.


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    Physicians often find that advertisements for prescription drugs generate inappropriate demand among patients and lead to time-consuming conversations that might otherwise not be needed.

    Although pharmaceutical marketers say that DTCA provides consumers with valuable health information, most research suggests that the ads create a range of serious problems, including excessive costs for patients, payers and the U.S. healthcare system overall.

    That was the conclusion drawn by Barbara Mintzes, Ph.D., who did a systematic review of the literature through 2011 about the behavioral, health and cost effects of DTCA. She works with the University of British Columbia’s Therapeutics Initiative’s Drug Assessment Working Group.  Mintzes notes that only the U.S. and New Zealand allow such pharmaceutical advertising. Surveys done by the World Health Organization in those nations have shown that, more often than not, when a patient asks a general practitioner for a specific drug by name, the doctor prescribes it.


    Related: Strategies for making PCP practices more efficient


    Do your patients sometimes come in to “talk with [their] doctor,” as the commercials advise, about a medicine that they want based on DTCA? For some help constructively steering these conversations, read on.


    Simplistic messages need correction

    Martin Derrow, MD, says he tries to understand a patient’s real problem first, when they request an advertised drug, in order to determine if they need any drug at all.

    Next: Suggestions for talks prompted by drug ads


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