$5 Billion Spent on Advertising and We Scare Patients
In the November 4, 2009 issue of BusinessWeek, the article, “Ask Your Doctor If This Ad is Right for You,” points out that the pharmaceutical industry is spending up to $5 billion a year on advertisements with the hope that consumers viewing and listening to the ads will then go to their doctor and request that product to treat their ailment.
As the article states:
“Does it seem like you hear the phrase “ask your doctor” every time you turn on the TV? There’s a reason. Drug companies spend about $5 billion a year in the U.S. on ads imploring people to talk to their physicians if they think a pill they’ve read about or seen on TV might help them. Such ads are so pervasive one might assume viewers are heading to the doctor knowing which drugs they want. “
The problem is that these advertisements are actually scaring the patients as they are now asking their doctors if all these harmful side effects actually do occur:
“But new research based on recordings of conversations in physicians’ offices suggests most patients aren’t asking for drugs by name. Or they’re only asking about scary side effects, which drugmakers have to include in ads, often in stomach-turning detail. Market researcher Verilogue recorded 12,500 patient-doctor conversations in 2008 and found only 23 requests for specific drugs. For example, researchers found that the fifth most heavily advertised drug, sanofi-aventis’ insomnia remedy Ambien, was often remembered for side effects like hallucinations, sleep-eating, and other problems. “I think it’s, uh, Ambien that says you might go out to eat and not remember,” said one patient in the study. The campaign cost sanofi $151 million last year, and Ambien sales actually fell by 37%, to $806 million.”