The latest issue of AARP Bulletin has a survey on the awareness by consumers of advertising for prescription drugs. The poll contrasts the percentage of peoples 18-49 and 50+ who experience different types of advertising for prescription drugs.
Although supposedly focused on the concerns of those more than 50 years of age, AARP Bulletin once again shows that it may have taken over as the magazine of cultural issues and trends for Middle America now that Parade is little more than a postage stamp. The survey touches on many hot button issues, including health care, the cost of prescription drugs and the use of media by both businesses and the public.
The survey, conducted by Social Science Research Solutions, a private research firm, shows hardly any difference in the rate at which those two age groups, younger and older, see ads for prescription drugs (sometimes squeamishly called “ethical pharmaceuticals”) on/in TV, magazines, radio, newspapers, Internet, pharmacies and email.
The most interesting finding, though, is that only 11% of younger people and 9% of older people have ever asked their physician for a prescription of a drug they saw in an ad.
How many times do we see ads on TV for prescription drugs to cure or ameliorate erectile dysfunction, obesity, diabetes, depression, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and chronic pain? I think you’ll find that whatever the time of day and whatever the magazine, the objective of a large percentage of all ads is to sell directly to the public those drugs that only a doctor can order.
It seems so unethical, and now we see that it doesn’t even do much good.
Drug companies are pouring hundreds of millions of dollars a year into advertising to reach a mere 9-11% of any market. Pfizer, maker of Lipitor for high cholesterol and Viagra for low you-know-what, spent $1.2 billion on advertising all by itself in 2007, the latest year I could find online.
All that money is only affecting 9-11% of the total market for each of its drugs! An absolute waste of money!
Perhaps the drug companies would be better off if they did not advertise to the public at all, but limited their marketing to physicians. I’m not saying that drug companies should not have websites and brochures that explain in lay terms the benefits and side effects of their drugs. I’m talking about the obtrusive and sanctimoniously obnoxious outreach in TV, email, magazine and other advertising.
Better that the drug companies not spend these enormous sums on advertising and instead lower their prices to consumers and hospitals.