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Physicians Favor a DTC Moratorium More Strongly Than Consumers, though Both Groups Cite Public Safety as the Key Benefit, according to New TNS Healthcare Research

NEW YORK, June 26, 2007—Almost two-thirds of physicians favor a moratorium on DTC advertising, with half supporting a 1 to 2 year wait before manufacturers can begin promoting new drugs directly to consumers, according to a new study from TNS Healthcare.  The study shows that fewer than half of consumers—44%—agree with doctors that a DTC moratorium should be implemented.  A large percentage of consumers—47%—indicate they have not yet made up their minds on the moratorium issue.  Of those who do favor a moratorium, 39% think that a 1 to 2 waiting period would be appropriate.

Although physicians across the board support a moratorium, there are differences among specialties.  Cardiologists have the highest level of agreement, with about three-quarters supporting a moratorium.  In contrast, neurologists are least supportive, with just 55% in favor
of a hold on DTC for new drugs.

Of physicians who do support a DTC moratorium, an overwhelming 85% believe it should apply to all new drugs, regardless of therapeutic class.  Consumers show similar results, with 82% who favor a moratorium believing it should apply to new brands across the board.

Safety Is the Top Reason for Supporting a Moratorium

The vast majority of physicians (81%) see public safety—allowing any unknown issues to emerge before widespread usage—as the top benefit of a moratorium.  The public strongly agrees, with 89% of consumers citing the same reason as the top issue driving their moratorium support.  Almost 60% of both doctors and the public also agree that a moratorium gives doctors a chance to gain important experience with a drug before patients start requesting it.

“Providing any new legislation is not onerous, a moratorium of a reasonable length may be beneficial in improving the public’s trust in the pharmaceutical industry and in DTC advertising,” says David Kweskin, Senior Vice President and Practice Area Leader, Ad and Brand Performance, for TNS.  “With a waiting period in place, consumers will come to understand that only drugs that pass the test of time will be advertised. 

“In a sense, a moratorium can serve as an ‘extended drug trial’—and, once the moratorium expires, both physicians and consumers are likely to feel confident that the product is truly proven to be both safe and efficacious.  In addition, by holding off on DTC, the industry will have demonstrated that the public’s safety is its first concern.”


About a Third of Doctors Call for Additional DTC Restrictions, While the Vast Majority of Consumers Remain Undecided

More than a third of physicians (37%) would like to see additional restrictions on DTC, though just 17% of consumers feel the same.  In fact, the majority of consumers—72%—still are undecided about whether they’d like to see more limits on DTC.

Among those who do favor additional restrictions, the majority of both physicians (63%) and consumers (70%) would like to see more severe penalties in place for advertisers producing misleading ads.  These feelings are particularly strong among psychiatrists, with 71% calling for stricter penalties.

More than half of doctors (58%) also would like to see tighter policies around the product claims allowed in DTC ads.  Consumers echo this finding, with 65% supporting stricter policies around claims allowed in advertising.  

Neither Doctors Nor Consumers Give FDA High Marks for Its DTC Policing

Neither physicians nor consumers believe the FDA is doing a good enough job policing DTC.   When asked the ways in which FDA is not doing an adequate job, about 60% of both groups
said that current ads are misleading and/or contain exaggerated claims.  Almost half of both physicians and consumers also believe that broadcast ads do not contain enough
information about risks and side effects.  In addition, more than 60% of physicians—but
just 43% of consumers—believe that current ads are unclear and lead patients to request inappropriate drugs.

The general public is slightly harder on FDA than physicians.  When asked about the FDA’s performance, 43% of consumers said that the FDA is lax in enforcing penalties against companies running inappropriate ads, while just 38% of doctors agree that FDA is not sufficiently strict in penalizing drug manufacturers.

Both Physicians and Consumers Fear that DTC Drives Up Drug Costs

The majority of doctors agree that DTC ads increase the cost of prescription medicines.  Consumers also agree that DTC ads drive up costs, but feel less slightly strongly than physicians.   

Both doctors and consumers also fear that ad messages can be unclear.  Consumers believe this leads them to feel they are not adequately informed, while doctors can feel pressured to write prescriptions for inappropriate medications.

“Certainly, there is an opportunity to improve DTC and enhance the perceptions of both
doctors and the public,” says Kweskin.  “Done right, DTC can make an emotional connection
with consumers—focusing on improving their quality of life and protecting their safety.  It can show consumers and doctors that pharma is a responsible industry, working in the best interest
of patients.”

1000+ Physicians and 250+ Consumers Share Their Views on DTC

TNS Healthcare’s research was conducted via Internet survey between May 30 and June 11, 2007.  More than 1000 physicians participated in the research, including 500 primary care physicians, 100 cardiologists, 100 neurologists, 100 gastroenterologists, 101 endocrinologists and 101 psychiatrists.  In addition, 251 consumers completed a consumer version of the survey.  

About TNS…

TNS is a global market insight and information group.

o Our strategic goal is to be recognized as the global leader in delivering value-added information and insights that help our clients to make more effective decisions.

o As industry thought leaders, our people deliver innovative thinking and excellent service to global organizations and local clients worldwide.  We work in partnership with our clients, meeting their needs for high-quality information, analysis and foresight across our network of over 70 countries.

o We are the world’s foremost provider of custom research and analysis, combining in-depth industry sector understanding with world-class expertise in the areas of new product development, segmentation and positioning research, brand and advertising research and stakeholder management.  We are a major supplier of consumer panel, media intelligence and Internet, TV and radio audience measurement services.

TNS is the sixth sense of business.

About TNS Healthcare…

TNS Healthcare provides market research consulting to the worldwide pharmaceutical, biotech and medical device industries, as well as health-focused ad agencies, media and analysts.  It offers globally consistent solutions and custom advisory services to support product introductions; brand, treatment and sales performance optimization; and physician and DTC promotional assessment.

Informing decisions across the life cycle, TNS Healthcare offers action-ready insights for pre-launch landscaping, market and opportunity assessment, segmentation, positioning, message and campaign creation, pricing, forecasting, attitude and awareness measurement and post-launch tracking.  It delivers information across stakeholders—including physicians, patients and consumers—to help companies anticipate and impact customers’ behaviors.  TNS Healthcare provides both qualitative and quantitative offerings, using traditional and on-line methodologies, combining worldwide reach with local expertise.

Contact Information…

For more information on TNS Healthcare’s DTC research, contact David Kweskin, TNS’s Senior Vice President and Practice Area Leader, Ad and Brand Performance, at 201-836-0040, ext. 214 or

For more information on TNS Healthcare, contact Ilene Siegalovsky, Senior Vice President, Marketing and Communications, at 201-836-0040, ext. 225 or

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Posted: June 2007