Getting Our Facts Straight About Pharma Marketing
Claim: Physicians are being pressured into prescribing the medications by their patients unduly influenced by pharma advertising.
Fact: A recent physician survey by KRC Research found that 92% say their clinical knowledge and 88% say a patient's unique situation greatly influence their prescribing decisions. Thirty-five percent point to patients' health insurance coverage as an important factor in prescribing, while only 5% say they often give the patient a prescription for the medicine requested.
Additionally, 50% of doctors report that they frequently recommend lifestyle or behavior changes, 18% recommend over-the-counter options and 14% recommend no treatment at all Additionally, according to an FDA survey, 73% of physicians polled stated that DTC ads helped patients ask thoughtful questions, and 91% said the patient did not try to influence the course of treatment in a way that would have been harmful.
Claim: Drug advertising promotes expensive branded drugs when much-lower cost generics are available.
Fact: A recent New York Times article stated that today 70% of all prescriptions used in the United States are for generics. This has increased sharply since 2000 when it generics accounted for only 49% of prescriptions.
Claim: Drug advertising increases health care costs.
Fact: Total promotional spending by pharma companies ranges from $15 billion to $50 billion, depending on the source and how one defines "marketing." (For instance, the larger number includes the cost to support pharmaceutical sales teams who call on physicians and provide free samples that many doctors provide to patients who do not have health insurance. A small percentage or about 15% goes to the most visible type of promotions -- direct to consumer advertising.) If you compare these expenditures to total U.S. health care spending of $2.26 trillion you can quickly see that even on the high side of pharma spending estimates, promotional spending accounts for only about 2% of the total health care costs.
Claim: Drug advertising leads to over-prescribing.
Fact: Numerous studies show that U.S. health care costs would actually decrease dramatically if more people with chronic conditions such as diabetes and heart disease were prescribed, and stayed on, prescription medications, thus eliminating millions of emergency room visits, costly procedures and hospital stays -- the real driver of health care costs. For instance, by eliminating the underuse of high blood pressure medicines, 89,000 lives could be saved and 420,000 hospitalizations avoided annually. Overall, non-adherence has been estimated to cost the U.S. $100 - 300 billion annually in avoidable health spending.
The fact is, the U.S. pharmaceutical industry has saved millions of lives and improved the quality of life for millions more -- here in the U.S. and abroad. Let's avoid taking the easy step of jumping on the pharma-bashing bandwagon without any recognition of the benefits that the pharma industry brings to all of us. And let's get our facts straight about pharma marketing once and for all.