Who are pharmaceutical commercials for?



I guess this is a pretty US centric question but I see so many commercials for drugs to treat very specific and/or life threatening conditions. If I had one of these conditions, I would hope I wouldn’t need to “Ask my doctor about…” a drug, but rather they would just, ya know, *prescribe* it to me. Are there really enough people with diagnosed conditions who’s doctors haven’t prescribed them the corresponding treatment that these commercials are effective? I’ve never really understood it but obviously they must be effective if there’s so many of them on TV.

In: Other

With how large the US is, yeah. There’s people who go to their doctors and say “Hey, I saw this ad for Examplex, it seemed like it’d work for me. Can I try it?” and the doctor will go “Well, it’s new, I wasn’t going to recommend it yet, but if you want to, sure, I can write you a prescription.” And enough people do that that the pharmaceutical companies see a profit.

It does seem really really weird though.

> I’ve never really understood it but obviously they must be effective if there’s so many of them on TV.

Pretty much yes, this is it, its nothing special and you should not think of pharma marketing as anything “unique”. Its just targeting niche groups, but many advertisements target niche groups.

IT communicates to both patients and medical professionals, however the pharma companies also have other ways, outside of advertising to target doctors and medical professionals, so the ads are less tailored for them.

In the end of the day, ads are ads. Advertising is advertising, no matter the product, most of it is very close to each other. You spew it out to a lot of people and will get a few bounces back, you just make sure you get enough bounces back to make it worth your while

Usually, most medical ads are targeted at people being treated for the condition in question but who are for some reason dissatisfied with the drug they are currently on. The idea is that the ad will prompt the to go to their doctor and ask for a medication change.

Which is why you see so many drugs for psychiatric problems (depression, etc), neuropathic pain, diabetes, allergies and such–because for those conditions, picking medications is usually a bit of a crap-shoot, and it can take a while for you to find a drug that works well enough without too much side effects.

Other ads are aimed at people who don’t realize that an medical problem exists that they should be worried about. Those are generally the vaccine ads: “Yes, Mother of a university-aged son, you should be worried about him catching meningitis.”

A large part of the success of doctors in America is based on their ability to produce satisfied customers- erm- patients.

Americans are conditioned to get what they want by threatening to remove their business or, worse, ruin a doctor’s reputation.

So doctors are conditioned to give patients what they ask for, in order to keep the customer happy. I mean, patient. My bad.

[a solid read](https://opmed.doximity.com/articles/death-by-patient-satisfaction-in-the-er?_csrf_attempted=yes)

Well, docs may or may not. You don’t see ads for antibiotics, because docs will just go prescribe them. But like I used to get lots of ads for a psoriasis drug. My doc didn’t prescribe or even mention it to me. So I checked it out—it’s very expensive, not too effective, has side effects, and only for people who have a really, really bad case of psoriasis. So my doc rejected it on those ground and didn’t mention. So the pharma *needs* patients to go in and ask for it. The doc may then discourage it, or the doc might say sure, here’s a scrip.

Likewise there were a lot of ads for Latisse, a drug that causes you eyelashes to be fuller. No doc is going to prescribe that of their own initiative—whispy eyelashes are not a disease. So they need me to become self conscious about my lack of lashes and then go bug the doctor.

So they tend to be drugs for things you might overlook or that your doctor doesn’t mention.

Though also, what you may not be aware of is that these big pharmas have an enormous advertising budget and they spend a lot of it on seminars for doctors in places like the Bahamas. They give a few lectures on how great their drug is, and then the docs are free to enjoy the beach. When there are like 20 different antidepressants out there, this is an effective way to get docs to prescribe it. It’s *advertising*, but it looks like neutral medical education and many docs believe what they’re being told and it puts the drug top of mind so they think of Zoloft the next time a patient comes in who seems in any way unhappy, and push that drug on them rather than prescribing something else.

And there’s diagnosis creep, encouraging more diagnoses of a given disease so the doctor can prescribe the meds to a new person who previously they may not have recognized as having a disease or not met the criteria for the disease. That’s part of why the opioid crisis in the US is so bad—they encouraged a focus on diagnosing pain, made pain too of mind even to the extend of making it a vital sign for docs to ask about, promoted the lie that you couldn’t get addicted to the stuff they were selling, and encouraged use for stuff that didn’t really require such powerful painkillers.

It’s similar to propaganda rather than actual evocative marketing. They don’t actually intend anyone run out to their doctor immediately and ask for drugs. But they are “priming” that response should the situation occur.

It engenders familiarity just by having heard it on TV/radio/whatever repeatedly. So you’ll be more likely to recognize it when a doctor offers choices as to which of these similar things you’d like to try first (keeps it front-of-mind). When there is zero context or knowledge of a thing, you tend to go for the one you’ve “at least heard of”… but the only reason you heard of it was subliminal annoying wastes of time that you eventually “ignore” consciously but you have no control over what leaks in subliminally through repetition and exposure.

Only two countries allow this (direct to consumer advertising of pharmaceuticals). The USA and New Zealand. Those ads are just weird.

It’s easy to hate these ads, but the days before they were allowed wasn’t so great either. In that era, no advertising could be done for prescription medicines except directly to doctors. But what is “advertising”? The drug companies couldn’t print brochures on their drugs for doctors to give out to patients because that could be advertising. The drug companies wouldn’t even answer a letter if you wrote them with specific questions (back when letters were like email). I know because my dad was taking some pretty heavy-duty chemo drugs and I wanted to know a bit more about them but had zero luck (their letter said “ask your doctor” but we had plenty to discuss with the doctor already)

Because ads are allowed, drug companies now have web sites were you can research drugs on your own time. If advertising was not allowed, I suspect these web sites would be gone.

Yeah, big Pharma does lots of creepy things and these ads aren’t great. . .but they also aren’t absolutely evil either.

They want you to ask for their specific brand. Most doctors will just prescribe the generic version that cost 1/100th of what the specific brand name meds cost.