Friday, May 1, 2009

"Empowering" Patients through advertising

In society it would seem that some people are generally deemed to be more trustworthy than others. Politicians for example tend to be thought of as residing at the more "untrustworthy" end of the spectrum, and I would imagine those involved in marketing are probably held in roughly the same regard. At the other end of the scale I would imagine you might have people like family doctors and firemen (or something like that)

With the theme of trust in mind I find it quite shocking that in America the FDA allow any sort of direct to customer advertising for pharmaceutical products, especially through the medium of social media. The absurd argument in favour of this is "customer empowerment" to have better informed customers making better choices. (Because of course they are going to be advertising objective clinical information...)

Now excuse me if I am wrong, but a GPs main interest in life is to make his patients better through usage of the best drug available on the market, and a marketers main interest in life is that the patient takes their drug regardless of its efficacy... Who should be allowed advise sick patients?

This coupled with the fact that the vast majority of patients cannot understand the medical consequences of various treatments, and are easily impressionable, says to me that DTC advertising is a complete farce, and despite the protests of pharma companies should most certainly heavily regulate usage of social media.


Manuel said...

Ed, regulating social media is an symbolic oxymoron if you consider American society. It goes against the first amendment, and Americans love their constitutional rights. Besides, who would regulate these ads? The FCC, the government? Under what criteria? 'Make sure you're being honest now ya hear?'. Pretty much all advertising, in all countries is made up of lies or ways around the truth, so where would you draw the line? What markets would not become subject to this regulation? And say you start off in tv, then what? Newspapers? Bus stands? Promotional staff? Hell, even books? Censorship of any kind couldn't fly because of the ramifications it would have for all forms of media and all markets of products. To say they should regulate it just does not make sense. Chewbacca is an eight foot tall wookiee. He hangs out with three foot tall ewoks. That does not make sense.

ed said...

Well it would be regulated by the FDA, who already regulate advertising through the more traditional means, under criteria set by them. They have strict(ish) guidelines for avertising through print and television and it owuld stand to reason that similar guidelines be set out for online advertising, and advertising through social media.

Its not hard to regulate advertising across the board, the government make the rules and sets the standards. Its already done to a certain extent in the US, but the companies just dont want them to make similar regulations for internet advertising. And also, industry wide advertising rules are in place of many places, take for example the advertising of tabacco, in Ireland, Europe and I think the US it essentially cant be done, not on tv, not in print, not on radio - its doable.

Where would you draw the line? you draw the line when the advertising goes beyond influencing the way people spend their spare money, and starts influencing people on serious health choices

Enda G said...

I agree with Ed that the ads from pharma companies direct to customers is rediculous, but I would be sad to see them go, because they have to be one of the funniest things to ever grace american tv, if you could ever use grace and american tv in the same sentence. These ads have given us hilarious copyright phrases such as "Help I've fallen and I can't get back up(TM)" AND lets not forgot those absolutely amazing ads for depression, featuring happy music and a man looking delighted with himself walking around a garden while the voice-over recommends Happotron for about 15 seconds, and then spends about two minutes speaking at a much faster speed about how actually taking the drug will possibly lead to colds, flu, paralysis, death, loss of fertility, diarrhea etc etc etc basically everything but polio, while the man continues to walk around the garden to the happy music. I think a good solution would be to allow the pharma companies to continue advertising, but only on comedy stations.

ed said...

Just for you Enda: - the life alert commercial

The ads are undeniably commical, I posted the weirdest pharma ad ever on the blog a while back, and they do make for amazing viewing.

But I really do find the practice of letting the pharma companies influence "Joe Soap" with sometimes incorrect, and often confusing information and almost no mention of the effictiveness vs. other treatments.