Ads lure patients for treatment

January 1, 1999

Pharmaceutical Representative

Direct-to-consumer advertising appears to be having its desired effect.

Direct-to-consumer advertising appears to be having its desired effect, luring consumers into doctors offices for medical conditions advertised in magazines and on television.

Visits for heavily advertised conditions rose by 11% between January and September 1998, according to Scott-Levin's "Physician Drug and Diagnosis Audit." Overall, visits to doctors increased by a more modest 2%.

Notably, visits for medical conditions with new and unique treatments that had been heavily promoted to consumers, such as smoking cessation and hair loss, rose by at least 30%. Visits for more traditional conditions, such as high cholesterol and migraine, rose by humbler percentages: 19% for high cholesterol and 12% for migraine.

Viagra, for which Pfizer recently launched a consumer advertising campaign, will have a tough time matching the jump in physician visits for erectile dysfunction that the product inspired in the first nine months of the year, but results from other product promotions suggest that at least a moderate increase in visits may occur.

Other new ad campaigns will test how effective direct-to-consumer advertising is as well.

Eli Lilly, for example, began promoting its insulin drug Humalog in print media in August. And 3M Pharmaceuticals began airing television commercials for Aldara for the treatment of genital warts.

Scott-Levin predicts that pharmaceutical spending on direct-to-consumer ads will have reached $1.5 billion by the end of 1998. By the end of August, the industry had already spent $830 million. PR