Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Imagine There's No DTC. I Wonder If You Can.

With apologies to John Lennon:

Imagine there's no DTC
It's easy if you try
No bellowing at us
From airwaves in the sky
Imagine all the marketers
Out of work that very day

Imagine there's no FDA
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to regulate or get pharma money for
And no warning letters too
Imagine all the marketers
Allowing us to live in peace

You may say that I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And Kennedy, Enzi, and Waxman will be as one

Imagine no Nightly News interruptions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or ROI
A respite from every drug ad man
Imagine all the marketers
Roaming aimlessly around the world

You may say that I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world without DTC will live as one


Obviously, the DTC marketers, advertisers, and supporting publications are running scared. The AAAA and other members of the Advertising Coalition -- those who profit the most from DTC next to the pharmaceutical industry itself -- are working hard to remove any moratorium on DTC advertising from the Food and Drug Administration Revitalization Act (S. 1082) that was introduced by Senators Ted Kennedy and Mike Enzi and recently passed by the Senate (see "The Advertising Coalition Calls for Campaign Against Kennedy-Enzi drug-safety bill").

It's no longer an issue of patient safety for many of these people -- it's their livelihoods! What would they do for 2 whole years without DTC ads to create? They'd have to find something else to do. In other words, they'd have to be more CREATIVE!

Imagine a world (actually, a USA) without DTC advertising. We'd have to learn a thing or two from how drug companies do things in Europe (heaven forbid!).

Instead of or in addition to circling the wagons and expending enormous amounts pf money, time, and energy lobbying and opposing the drug safety bill, the Advertising Coalition should think of non-DTC promotional opportunities that they can offer their pharmaceutical clients.

I wonder if they can.


  1. Anonymous8:55 AM

    Hey, don't be so hard on us! There's a lot of creativity in what we do, a lot of science, research, hard work. And if DTC went away -- which, despite my own stake in it, I agree would be best -- we'd focus even more on building awareness among prescribers, and differentiating our compounds on their merits. It's easy to be cynical in pharma, but some of us are lucky enough to work on brands we can really believe in.

  2. Thanks for your comments.

    There are many different kinds of creativity. There's creativity that wins awards and there's creativity that wins results. I was speaking of the latter.

    Hopefully, your creativity falls within the latter category.

  3. There is also the kind of creativity that speaks to the people, and people WANT to listen. I think PHARMA *could* use DTC marketing much more successfully, IF, they listened to more feedback from academia, consumers, their families, real consumer advocates, and of course, their own guts.

    I do not for a nano think that the intentions of the DTC creative marketers are inherently evil nor do i think that all the production crews from writers to prop guys should be out of work. However, I am sure that those who mined asbestos and installed it in our homes also felt the same way. Timber folks out here, also feel that way about environmentalists.

    I think John's post is fair, although I am not in favor of the song... although if YOU sing it on YouTube.. that would be great :)

    Dr. BK

    PS. It does say in my blog, on the posting that you blogged about, that the caps are a response to the content and not shouting, right at the top of the post :) However, I honestly don't remember writing that. I wonder if the Devil is in the details?

  4. One benefit is that reps can be spared of the wrath of some doctors who transfer their anger at companies onto the reps themselves.

    Back in the early days when I was a sales rep, DTC was just starting on the horizon. The pharmaco I worked for had a brilliant idea of sending reps out with glossy visual aids telling docs about their upcoming DTC campaign. I was a naive rep and went out armed with stacks of these glossies as instructed by the pharmaco.

    A doc heard the word DTC and practically threw the glossy at my face, told me that was what he thought of the pharmaco's DTC, and that I should tell that to pharmaco. Yes, it's almost 10 years ago and I still remember it. You just don't forget an experience that almost qualifies as physical assault.

  5. Imagine a world (actually, a USA) without DTC advertising. We'd have to learn a thing or two from how drug companies do things in Europe (heaven forbid!).

  6. If there were no DTC, I'd still be puking up bottles of fleet's phospho soda every year and praying that I kept enough down to make my cancer screening colonoscopies work, because doctors have better things to do than be aware of alternatives. But I'm sure everyone is always better off with less information.

  7. Thanks for your comment Lisa.

    If your doctor only gets information about new drugs from DTC, then you are in deep trouble.

  8. I never said my doctor gets all their information from DTC. I'm fairly fortunate in that I go to a large academic teaching hospital specialty practice, and they're up on the latest things. Even so, I found the drug I mentioned through a DTC ad, mentioned it to my doctor, he looked into it and decided it was ok, and I haven't bought a bottle of that awful fleet's sludge in six years. I told my surgeon I used it and he was fine with writing a scrip once I explained what it was. It seems that some people think there's something wrong with that sequence of events. I'm consistently amazed by how many total strangers think they belong in the middle of my relationship with my physician. I guess some people do such a stellar job of managing their own lives that there's nothing left to do but manage the personal medical decisions of people they've never met.

  9. Lisa,

    Did you know that some drug advertising agencies have gone out of their way to PROVE that "that sequence of events" you mention (ie, DTC informs patient, patient mentions ad for drug to doc and requests drug, doctor prescribes drug) does NOT happen and therefore DTC does NOT cause doctors to prescribe based on DTC advertising.

    See my post on that here: "Advertisers Don't Know How DTC Works. Say wha?" http://pharmamkting.blogspot.com/2006/09/advertisers-dont-know-how-dtc-works.html

    Your snide remark accusing me of thinking that I "belong in the middle of [your] relationship with [your] physician" comes right out of PhRMA's play book and for all I know about you (which is nil), you might just be a shill for that organization.

    Regardless, I really don't give a crap about managing your doctor-patient relationship. And I am not criticizeing how YOU manage YOUR life, so lay off the personal innuedoes about how I might be managing mine!

    This is what I get for trying to be polite! Jeeez! Where do these people come from?

  10. Wow...I've been accused of a few things, but being a "shill" for pharmaceutical companies is a new one. Believe me, I had no intention of being snide or setting you off. For your info, I'm not a shill for anybody. I'm a graduate student and a 22-year Crohn's disease survivor. I don't think that you personally believe that you belong in my relationship with my physician. But I don't get the impression that most people who oppose DTC advertising do so because they think it's bad for them, personally, like something bad happened to them because they saw a drug in an ad. They're usually concerned about the effect it has on other people, specifically because they think those other people are not too bright, and too much information is too dangerous a weapon to leave lying around casually for anybody to get their hands on. For example, I just had an acquaintance say they're really worried about "people self-diagnosing" as a result of TV ads. Of course, not them, because they know better. Which makes me wonder: why do they assume other people aren't as smart, and why is that their personal worry?
    In a small way, that typifies the attitudes I see toward people with serious illness. We have to fight people who think that because you're ill, you need to be looked out for whether you like it or not- from total strangers at the FDA deciding whether a drug's risk/benefit profile is right for you, to restrictions on where you can get information, to people who insist that you should not have full decision making power over your own medical care because being ill makes you too "vulnerable" and "emotional" to decide things. Even if you personally don't give a crap about my relationship with my physician, there's no shortage of people who think it is their business (including other doctors). Whether the information in DTC ads is of the quality it should be and how it can be made better are legitimate questions, and there are ways to address them. But I oppose "a world without DTC" because I believe that information is power, and restrictions on information are disempowering to patients. For example, if we banned DTC, is that just TV ads? What about print ads? websites? Information published by disease advocacy groups? Once the information patients get is restricted for our own good, where does it stop? I see it as just another form of paternalism toward the ill, and I have certainly had my fill of that. Maybe DTC ads are not the best source of information. But I want that judgment to be between me and my doctor. Some bad information may be part of the price we pay for freedom of information. But the costs of that loss of freedom are bigger. If you think I'm a crazy person who just crawled out of the woodwork, fine. But those of us who want at least the chance to evaluate all the info we can get our hands on are not nutjobs or shilling for pharmaceutical companies. Sometimes we're just patients who want to be free.

  11. Lisa,

    Sorry if I suspected you of being a shill -- I get a lot of those kinds of comments.

    After reading your comments, I see we are closer together on the issue than you may think. You also make a few good points that I'd like to think about and respond to in a future blog post.

    So excuse me for not getting into all of that here. Let me just say that we both want MORE information, not less. When I say DTC, I mean BRANDED DTC ads on TV and in print that do very little education.

    What if, for example, drug companies did ads that were more like infomercials? I learned a lot about Crohn's disease, for example, from the Innerstate movie, which never mentioned a brand name drug! It's a shame that these patients' stories may never make it into TV ads; at least that's what the Centocor people told me.

    Thanks for the dialog, Lisa. Again, my apologies for misrepresenting you.


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