Is Online DTC Healthcare Bringing Price Transparency and Lowering Costs for the US Healthcare System?
Big Pharma is making a huge presence in the lives of consumers once again. Many people see the pharmaceutical industry as obnoxious and money-hungry, especially when it comes to DTC or direct-to-consumer advertisement. You may have seen several TV, online and radio commercials, as well as advertisements in newspapers and magazines promoting companies that can deliver prescription drugs to consumers.
DTC advertising has been around for about ten years now, and people have had both positive and negative things to say about this form of marketing. Currently, New Zealand and the United States are legally able to provide DTC prescriptions to consumers. However, it's possible that Europe and Canada may soon offer this service to citizens as well if DTC continues to rise in popularity.
What is DTC advertising?
DTC advertising takes place when a promotion is viewed by someone who can't buy the advertised product on their own. In the US, most common form of direct-to-consumer advertising comes from pharmaceutical companies. The advertisements reveal the benefits of a drug, but also encourages the consumer to discuss the medication with their physician.
As with all types of marketing, DTC advertising advantages and drawbacks must be taken into consideration when you evaluate whether this form of marketing would be best for you. Here are some key points you'll want to consider.
The arguments that oppose DTC advertising are pretty familiar. DTC can increase the cost of prescriptions and has also contributed to the rise of hypochondriacs. Some also say that DTC provides a quick fix for many people who may need more extensive healthcare. When consumers know that they can simply order the prescriptions they need without having to visit the doctor, this gives Big Pharma another advantage and allows the industry to make money, even if the patient isn't accurately treated.
Of course, there are also several arguments in favor of DTC advertising. These benefits are not as common, but it's still important to consider the advantages. For instance, DTC advertising can make patients more aware of their options when it comes to treatment. These options can include new medications for a certain condition or disease. DTC advertisements can also help to decrease the stigma and raise awareness about certain disorders such as anxiety or depression and encourage patients to seek the medical attention they need. Overall, DTC healthcare can make it easier for patients to be motivated to take control of their health.
The research behind dtc healthcare
The pros and cons of DTC healthcare have been argued extensively over the years, and long-term studies have explored the effects of DTC advertising. Factors that have been included in the studies include the marketing budgets spent on DTC advertising, as well as the amount of prescriptions written and doctor surveys. The physicians were surveyed to the extent that DTC has affected doctor-patient relationships and the prescribing habits of physicians, as well as the distribution of cost when it comes to healthcare delivery. For instance, people who use DTC healthcare often have fewer hospital stays since they have easier access to their prescriptions.
Those who support DTC advertising also face criticism, since some people have pointed out that the FDA doesn't properly vet the ad. Recently, Pfizer made a decision to pull their ads for Lipitor that featured Dr. Rober Jarvik, and this "proved" to some critics that pharmaceutical companies sand the FDA should take more care when it comes to promoting DTC prescriptions. Due to pressure from Congress, the Lipitor ads featuring Dr. Jarvik were seen as misleading, since it is debatable whether he deserves sole credit for inventing the artificial heart. It is also important to note that Dr. Jarvik is not a cardiologist or a licensed physician.
It seems the ads for DTC healthcare are found everywhere, but the number and type of medications in advertisements is actually small. These advertisements also focus on new prescription drugs that are used to treat chronic diseases, as well as diseases that have symptoms patients an easily recognize, such as allergies, arthritis, depression or diabetes.
It's also important to note that DTC advertising only accounts for a small amount of the marketing budget for the prescription drugs that are promoted. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, spending for DTC advertising increased to 330% between the years of 1993 and 2005, but this only made up for 14% of all promotional expenditures in 2005. One of the biggest factors in marketing budgets is still marketing directly to physicians.
More things to consider when looking at dtc healthcare.
If you're still not sure if DTC healthcare is right for you, here are a few more things to consider. DTC provides customers with more education about the drugs they are currently taking or considering. When patients see their doctors, they usually don't know much about the drugs the physician will prescribe. If you see advertisements about new medications that are on the market, you can ask the doctor about alternative drugs that may be better suited for you.
If you're exposed to more DTC advertisements, you may be more encouraged to seek out treatment earlier. For most conditions, early diagnosis and treatment is essential; we've also seen that cancer is more effectively treated when it's treated early. DTC advertising can raise patient awareness and help you avoid severe symptoms associated with an illness.
You've likely noticed that DTC is also visually appealing. After all, most people would like to avoid going to the doctor as much as possible, and some people are even afraid of going to a physician. If patients are able to get their medications online, this can help them to get the treatment they need without having to go through the fearful experience of going to a doctor's office.
Keep in mind that DTC healthcare also means that a doctor will fulfill the prescription request. If you're interested in taking more control when it comes to your health, you can consult with an actual physician who will answer your questions about the prescription you've requested. While some people are concerned that DTC has caused people to suspect they have symptoms that aren't present, the doctor can explain this in a way that may put patients at ease and keep them from taking medications they don't need. Patients can also request additional information on the prescriptions and have pamphlets sent to their homes or PDF and other online documents emailed to them.
If you decide to go with DTC healthcare for some of most of your medical needs, it's important to be aware that the cost of your medications could increase. The advertising costs are built into the prices of the prescriptions. You should also do your own research when it comes to the side effects of your prescriptions, since these often aren't emphasized and it can be easy to overlook them when you're seeking treatment.
Ultimately, it's up to you to decide if DTC advertising is right for you, and the benefits depend on each individual patient. Your willingness to keep up with your treatment plan and learn all you can about your medications will play a huge role in whether this type of healthcare is best for you.