DTC Advertising Improvements Observed In Two New Reports

WASHINGTON, June 4, 2007 — Two new reports released today by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) further demonstrate America’s pharmaceutical research companies’ continuing efforts to enhance the educational and informative nature of direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertisements for prescription drugs.

“DTC advertising has been shown to play a key role in educating and empowering patients, improving patient understanding of disease and available treatments, and fostering strong relationships between patients and their health care providers,” said PhRMA President and CEO Billy Tauzin. “America’s pharmaceutical research companies pledged nearly two years ago to improve the educational value of DTC  advertising. The findings of these reports illustrate our progress thus far, but more importantly, will guide companies’ efforts going forward.”

In July 2005, PhRMA’s Board of Directors unanimously approved the establishment of voluntary “Guiding Principles on Direct-to-Consumer Advertisements about Prescription Medicines,” which became effective in January 2006. In connection with these principles,
PhRMA created an Office of Accountability, which accepts comments from the public and from healthcare professionals regarding DTC advertisements by any company that is a signatory to the PhRMA Guiding Principles.

A report released today presents the findings of the Office of Accountability’s second survey of signatory companies. The report summarizes the nature of 458 comments on adherence to the Guiding Principles received by the Office of Accountability and signatory
companies between July 1, 2006 and December 31, 2006. The vast majority of comments came from patients/consumers; less than 10 percent were submitted by healthcare practitioners.

Most of the comments submitted addressed the public health benefits of DTC advertising, such as promoting disease and product awareness, and the ads’ compliance with Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations.

Importantly, many patients responded positively to the educational elements of individual ads and expressed appreciation for the value of such information. Furthermore, some comments praised companies for improving the timing of certain ads to avoid viewing by inappropriate age groups, and strong support was expressed for companies that have featured the availability of patient assistance programs in their advertisements.

In addition to positive feedback, some comments provided constructive criticism on individual advertisements. For example, some patients criticized the use of specific actors in a DTC ad, some were confused by certain details in an ad, and some expressed confusion about risk information presented. Such insights will help inform ongoing efforts to ensure that advertisements are as educational and understandable as possible.

In a related effort to receive transparent, unbiased feedback on pharmaceutical advertising, PhRMA assembled an informal, voluntary panel of independent health professionals, who viewed television and print ads during a five-month period between April 2006 and September 2006. The panel’s observations and recommendations are outlined in a new report, “DTC Advertising Trends and PhRMA’s ‘Guiding Principles.’”

Among its anecdotal findings, the panel indicated that companies demonstrated increasing sensitivity to targeting content and placement of DTC ads to age-appropriate audiences. In addition, the panel members found that risk information was commonly presented in the advertisements they viewed, although they highlighted the merits of presenting such information in a straight-forward format free of distracting background visuals.

The panel observed that most ads presented some information about the condition being treated. Panel members noted that the most “educationally-effective” product-specific ads promoted a medicine “in the context of raising consumer awareness of a condition, and prompting contact with a health professional for further information and assessment,” the report states. However, the panel added that some ads tended to emphasize the drug product more than the condition.

The panel also pointed to a few additional areas where further improvements can be made. For example, the panel members emphasized the value of portraying realistic scenarios in ads that reflect the seriousness of a medical condition, and suggested that ads should include information about programs available to help the uninsured and under-insured, such as the Partnership for Prescription Assistance (PPA).

The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) represents the country’s leading pharmaceutical research and biotechnology companies, which are devoted to inventing medicines that allow patients to live longer, healthier, and more productive lives. PhRMA companies are leading the way in the search for new cures. PhRMA members alone invested an estimated $43 billion in 2006 in discovering and developing new medicines. Industry wide research and investment reached a record $55.2 billion in 2006.

Posted: June 2007


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