patients

Direct to Consumer (DTC) advertisements continue to be a controversial issue with heated debate in every facet of society. The pharmaceutical industry, other private and public sectors have continued to issue opinions. Furthermore, there have been numerous studies that assess the per­ceived impact on the “consumer” or for the purposes of this paper, “patient”, and also surveys of physician’s reactions to the advertisements. The debate includes fiscal impact to our healthcare delivery system as well as issues related to the marketing of medications directly to the patient. In no other industry has the debate on how to market a product been so heatedly discussed. Certainly, car dealerships do not sit around and debate on the ethics of putting a commercial on television or radio in a suppressed economy. Further, what about the fast-food industry and manufacturers of our daily consumable products such as beverages and foods and that to a society whose waistline continues to expand and heart disease escalates. What about the impact of alcoholic beverages and any correlation between the numbers of advertisements targeted to at risk populations? There has been minimal debate on these issues; the only product that comes to mind with similar levels of debate is tobacco, especially as it relates to minors.

However, it is only right that we look keenly at the DTC issue as it does potentially affect the health of our patients and thus the health of the nation. Healthcare is a different issue from car manufacturing and the other examples cited. We must attempt to view DTC advertisements with an unbiased lens and assess scientifically the impact that these ads make on the delivery and receipt of healthcare. The healthcare industry (private and public) must investigate any and all issues that may impact the health of the nation. However, we must attempt to view this issue without our own personal biases and look at scientific data and statistics from objective studies. As scientists and more importantly as physicians, we must approach this debate with our focus on the health of the patient. While it is important for us to look at the fiscal impact, that is not our primary focus and the authors of this study feel that it is not our expertise or role. The focus of our investigation is to query at the role of DTC advertisements in giving the patient information, causing them to seek more information and in encouraging the patient to walk into the doctor’s office and seek care. Does DTC actually have an impact on driving the patient into the physician’s office or increasing dialogue between the doctor and the patient, and thus, strengthening the relationship? Is this a tool that increases health awareness, disease prevention, early detection and treatment or is it a misguided weapon that is used by the pharmaceutical industry to drive up revenue? In attempting to address these questions, the authors of this study concluded that the best way to assess the impact of DTC advertisements was to view the physician and patient during the scheduled office visit. This dyad is the target of the advertisements and, therefore, the best source of actual data. In addition, inside the walls of the physician’s office lie confidentiality, relationship and trust that despite the changing environment in healthcare remains the barometer by which we gage our patients. canadian pharmacy support net