Drug developers heavily rely on a number of broadcasting channels, which include direct to consumer (DTC) advertisements, product websites and conferences, to promote their proprietary drugs. The importance of such promotions is evident from the fact that the pharmaceutical industry spent close to USD 6.1 billion in DTC advertisements in 2017 The target of such promotional content / campaigns is usually consumers (patients), caretakers / caregivers and healthcare professionals (physicians). However, it is important to highlight that DTC advertising of prescription drugs is permitted only in the US, New Zealand, Bangladesh and South Korea. In other geographies, such as Europe, such promotional campaigns are not allowed, owing to the belief that advertisements may put physicians in a situation where they are likely to be coerced into prescribing advertised drugs based on patients’ demands, even if they are not the better alternatives. Additionally, other concerns include increase in healthcare costs related to promotional activities, as healthcare is completely reimbursed by the government in some countries.
Channels used for Promotional Campaigns
Currently, there are a number of channels available for use by drug developers to promote their products. Some of these channels are mentioned below:
§ Product websites: In order to provide the necessary information related to drugs to patients and healthcare professionals, drug developers launch product specific websites. The primary objective of such portals is to provide details on different aspects, such as indications for which the product can be used, its efficacy, benefits and safety concerns.
§ Patient assistance programs: Drug makers generally initiate patient assistance programs in order to help less privileged patient groups get access to their drugs. In such cases, drug developers may offer to pay half or full price of the product for a specified period of time. The objective of such patient assistance programs is to support patients financially, as well as to provide day to day living assistance during the course of the treatment.
§ Detailing material (face to face sales and promotional activities): Detailing material, such as leaflets and brochures, containing information on the drug, is another promotional strategy used by pharmaceutical companies. The objective of this strategy is to educate physicians about a specific product, with the expectation that the physician will prescribe the drug to his / her patients, who are suffering from the indication for which the drug is approved.
§ Direct to consumer (DTC) advertisements: Promotional campaigns of prescription products that directly target consumers (patients) are known as DTC advertisements. Drug developers generally advertise their products using popular media platforms, such as television, print media (magazines and newspapers) and even over the radio. The main objective is to make patients familiar with the product and provide information on indication(s) for which it can be used, along with efficacy and / or safety results.
§ Oral / poster presentations at conferences: Conferences, held at the national or international level, present opportunities to drug developers to present their clinical findings generated from different clinical programs of the drug. Companies participate in such conferences to increase awareness about their initiative and respective drug products, among healthcare professionals.
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