Expensive Pharmaceutical Ads Don't Boost Drug Sales

Armen Hareyan's picture

Expensive pharmaceutical advertising campaigns are not significantly impacting drug sales.

A joint team of US and Canadian researchers looked at how prescription drug advertising affects Quebec residents. Researchers considered the following drugs: Enbrel for rheumatoid arthritis treatment sold by Wyeth and Amgen; Novartis, AG's drug Zelnorm for now-withdrawn irritable bowel; Nasonex for allergy treatment made by ScheringPlough Corp. The drugs were already available in the market for a year before beginning an advertising campaign.

It is known that there are countries, apart from US and New Zealand, that prohibit the adds, which mention the drug name, but don't mention what it is for. The study showed that English speaking residents are more affected by the ads than French speaking ones. This may be due to the fact that English speaking people mainly watch American channels, while French speaking people watch Canadian channels.


Researchers then analyzed the data for English speaking residents of Canada and examined the data from 2700 pharmacies provided by IMS Health Canada. They found that the rate of Nasonex use increased by 40%, but they suggest that this may be because there is no approved alternative for this drug. Overall, there was no significant increase in drug sales promoted by expensive ads.

Another study by Kaiser Family Foundation looked at direct-to-consumer ads and reported that 91% of adults have seen drug ads, but only 1/3 of them consulted a doctor on the drug and 54% of them received a prescription. About 76% of doctors reported that they advise an actively promoted drug to a patients, and only 5% of doctors frequently prescribe the drugs.

In 2005 there was about $3 billion dollars spent on very expensive ads to promote drugs in US, but the ads seemed to have a very small influence on drug sales. This may make us think that pharmaceutical industry will fall apart, but that is not true. Despite of the fact that ads don't really boost drug sales, drugs are being prescribed and consumed.

These researchers come to confirm the well known saying that if manufacturers spend as much money on improving product quality, as they spend on ads, their products will not need any ads because they will turn into super-high quality products. This turns especially true for prescription drugs, because patients will not go and buy the drugs that are being actively promoted - they will buy the ones recommended by their doctors.

Wouldn't it be great if $3 billion dollars a year were spent on developing new prescription drugs and treatments?



Good, it is about time this crap leaves the airwaves.