A consumer survey from STAT-Harvard says a majority of consumer respondents support a ban of DTC on television. The 57% who said they support a ban is based on some prompting in the survey methodology.
Consumers were told prior to answering that some people believe ads cause inappropriate prescribing and raise the cost of drugs. Telling consumers that “some people say” may be perceived the same as stating it as fact. It is not surprising that these purported problems lead consumers to say DTC should be banned. No one wants inappropriate use and higher prices. There is no evidence drug makers raise prices to cover advertising. As I have stated many times advertising spending is about 2% of drug revenue, not enough to be a factor in pricing.
I would challenge the survey writers to repeat the survey with no “some people say” statements prior to answering. I also would expect consumers to support bans in a lot of categories if prompted with the negative potential results of advertising. I do not doubt many consumers do not like drug ads for a host of reasons. I also admit there is some inappropriate prescribing and some consumers ask for drugs they do not need. Banning information is not the solution to inappropriate use.
Based on that logic we should consider banning ads for sugared cereal, fast food, fast cars,, beer, guns, nutrition supplements, OTC drugs and a host of other categories where inappropriate use is possible.
Consumers often find drug ads silly or annoying when the drug is not treating a condition they have. This survey would have a very different result if the questions were to a specific set of sufferers. Ask people with erectile dysfunction if Viagra ads should be banned. Ask Hepatitis C sufferers if Harvoni ads should be removed. Ask the caregiver for an Alzheimers patient if Namenda ads have no place on television.
Drug ads are often lampooned on Saturday Night Live but no one who has a disease wants to be prevented from hearing about cures. Drug ads are never meant for a wide audience and it is unfair to ask non sufferers if they want drug ads banned. Of course this survey will be used to justify legislation punishing drug advertisers. Critics will create a headline that Americans are demanding a ban.
Unfortunately this survey has gotten wide press coverage and industry must counter the “some people say” methodology that went in to the design. The net is advertising for lawful products creates competition and leads to better products and more choices. A ban is the wrong approach to concerns about drug prices and inappropriate use.