Medical Marketing Has Increased in Past 20 Years

Considerable increase seen from 1997 through 2016, especially in direct-to-consumer advertising

TUESDAY, Jan. 8, 2019 (HealthDay News) -- From 1997 through 2016, there was an increase in medical marketing, especially direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertising, according to research published in the Jan. 1/8 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Lisa M. Schwartz, M.D., and Steven Woloshin, M.D., from the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice in Lebanon, New Hampshire, reviewed the marketing of prescription drugs, disease awareness campaigns, health services, and laboratory tests and related consequences from 1997 to 2006.

The researchers found that spending on medical marketing of drugs, disease awareness campaigns, health services, and laboratory testing increased from $17.7 billion to $29.9 billion from 1997 through 2016. The most rapid increase was in DTC advertising (from 11.9 to 32.0 percent of total spending). There was an increase in DTC prescription drug advertising from $1.3 billion to $6 billion, with a shift toward the advertising of high-cost biologics and cancer immunotherapies. Pharmaceutical companies increased DTC marketing about diseases treated by their drugs; disease awareness campaigns increased from 44 to 401. There was also an increase in DTC advertising for health services from $542 million to $2.9 billion. Marketing to health care professionals increased from $15.6 billion to $20.3 billion, accounting for most promotional spending.

"Despite the increase in marketing over 20 years, regulatory oversight remains limited," the authors write.

The authors served as medical experts in testosterone litigation and were cofounders of Informulary.

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