Pharma Ads Continue Rise

There are more pharmaceutical ads on TV these days than ever – though you’d be smart to be skeptical about the claims of those ads.

Onestudy  found that direct-to-consumer drug advertising grew nearly 5-fold from 1997 to 2016. Despite a move away from TV and toward online, drug advertising spending appears steady. It rose just 1% in the first half of 2022 compared with the first half of 2021, according to the Standard Media Index.

The study also found that fewer than one-third of drugs featured in direct-to-consumer TV advertising were judged to have high therapeutic value. Some 70% of advertised drugs had “low therapeutic value,” meaning they did little more than drugs already on the market.

“One explanation might be that drugs with substantial therapeutic value are likely to be recognized and prescribed without advertising, so manufacturers have greater incentive to promote drugs of lesser value,” the authors concluded.



The U.S. is the only other country besides New Zealand that allows drug advertisements. In 2015, the American Medical Association called for a ban on ads for D2C drugs and medical devices, but pharma advertising continues to this day.

Drug companies spent about $14 billion on advertising last year, according to Statista, and are projected to spend $15 billion this year. That stat is up from about $1 billion in 2011.

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