Pharmaceutical advertising down but not out, study says

March 4, 2013

The pharmaceutical industry has pulled back on marketing to physicians and consumers, yet some enduring patterns persist. According to a new study led by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, advertising peaked in 2004, with industry promotion to physicians declining nearly 25 percent by 2010, to $27.7 billion or 9 percent of sales.

Similar declines were seen in direct-to-consumer advertising, which remains concentrated among a small number of products. The number of products promoted to providers peaked at over 3,000 in 2004, and declined by approximately 20 percent by 2010. Despite these changes, there was little change in the split of marketing between and specialists, and the proportion of all taking place in physicians' offices also remains unchanged. Free samples and physician detailing accounted for over 70 percent of promotional expenditures in 2010, with the remainder comprised by consumer advertising as well as physician marketing through journal ads, e-promotion and sponsored conferences and meetings. The results are featured in the February 2013 issue of the open-access journal .

"There have been important changes in the pharmaceutical marketplace during the past decade, including changes in the types of therapies being brought to market as well as an overall aging of the drugs with ," said G. Caleb Alexander, MD, MS, senior author of the study and an associate professor with the Bloomberg School's Department of and co-director of the Johns Hopkins Center for & Effectiveness. "Since pharmaceutical promotion can influence demand for drugs and affect physician prescribing, it is important to know how drugs are being marketed and promoted."

Alexander, along with colleagues from the University of Chicago, the University of Pittsburgh, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the National Bureau of Economic Research, analyzed annual data from 2001 through 2010 to examine inflation-adjusted total promotion spending for the as a whole and for top-selling and top-promoted therapies. Expenditures were also broken down by type of promotion and, for physician detailing, by specialty.

The authors were surprised to find that, despite anecdotal reports and calls from professional societies, there was no substantial change in the amount of overall proportion of promotion taking place in physicians' offices. Lead author Rachel Kornfield describes, "There has been growing concern about the conflicts of interest introduced by physicians' relationships with pharmaceutical companies, but the data show that physician detailing and the distribution of free samples is still the dominant form of drug promotion."

In addition, despite enthusiasm and publicity regarding new forms of marketing via the Internet and other electronic media, these channels accounted for a very small amount of overall marketing spending to providers – less than 2 percent over the decade examined. The authors found that the majority of marketing and promotion still takes place as it has in the past – through the distribution of free samples to patients and office calls to physicians.

Explore further: Study links improved consumer welfare to increased prescription drug advertising efforts

More information: "Promotion of Prescription Drugs to Consumers and Providers, 2001-2010," was written by Rachel Kornfield, Julie M. Donohue, Ernst. R. Berndt and G. Caleb Alexander and is available at dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0035954

Related Stories

Study links improved consumer welfare to increased prescription drug advertising efforts

November 26, 2012
More people are better off thanks to the impact of an influx of direct-to-consumer advertising spending than they would be without those marketing efforts, according to a study recently published by Jayani Jayawardhana, an ...

Medical students have substantial exposure to pharmaceutical industry marketing

May 24, 2011
Medical students in the United States are frequently exposed to pharmaceutical marketing, even in their preclinical years, and the extent of their contact with industry is associated with positive attitudes about marketing ...

Recommended for you

Mind-body therapies immediately reduce unmanageable pain in hospital patients

July 25, 2017
Mindfulness training and hypnotic suggestion significantly reduced acute pain experienced by hospital patients, according to a new study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

Study suggests ending opioid epidemic will take years

July 20, 2017
The question of how to stem the nation's opioid epidemic now has a major detailed response. A new study chaired by University of Virginia School of Law Professor Richard Bonnie provides extensive recommendations for curbing ...

Team-based model reduces prescription opioid use among patients with chronic pain by 40 percent

July 17, 2017
A new, team-based, primary care model is decreasing prescription opioid use among patients with chronic pain by 40 percent, according to a new study out of Boston Medical Center's Grayken Center for Addiction Medicine, which ...

Private clinics' peddling of unproven stem cell treatments is unsafe and unethical

July 7, 2017
Stem cell science is an area of medical research that continues to offer great promise. But as this week's paper in Science Translational Medicine highlights, a growing number of clinics around the globe, including in Australia, ...

Popular heartburn drugs linked to higher death risk

July 4, 2017
Popular heartburn drugs called proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) have been linked to a variety of health problems, including serious kidney damage, bone fractures and dementia. Now, a new study from Washington University School ...

Most reproductive-age women using opioids also use another substance

June 30, 2017
The majority of reproductive-age and pregnant women who use opioids for non-medical purposes also use at least one other substance, ranging from nicotine or alcohol to cocaine, according to a University of Pittsburgh Graduate ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.