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The New Strategy for Drug Advertising

If you've been reading my newsletter regularly, you know about a crackdown by the FDA on the outrageously false claims mega-billion pharmaceutical companies have made in their direct-to-consumer advertising. For that and various other reasons, some marketing experts expect the business of advertising prescription drugs -- now a $4 billion industry all by itself (according to 2004 numbers) -- will change.

One expert believes drug ads have hit a wall in terms of current advertising approaches, which has been likely spurred by the friendly, inviting ads for COX-2 inhibitors like Celebrex that have been slapped down by the FDA for understating their sometimes fatal risks.

Also, expect to see fewer ads down the line that name a specific drug -- which are required to list their side effects -- in lieu of more generalized ads that describe conditions and direct consumers to toll-free numbers and Web sites that dispense more detailed information. By following this strategy, one expert speculates more patients may seek out new drugs to cure their conditions -- likely on the Internet.

Some encouraging numbers that show patients may finally be questioning the claims drugmakers make in their ads:

  • According to one study, the percentage of consumers who recalled a drug ad and its message fell slightly in 2004 for the first time in three years to 68 percent from 71 percent the year before.
  • The number of patients who viewed drug ads on TV then asked the doctors about them dropped a bit from 15 percent in 2001 to 14 percent last year.

USA Today March 16, 2005

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