Why DTC is good for you

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  • 05/23/2013

Here’s a good briefer from FDA News on the recent Journal of General Internal Medicine study on DTC. The “aha” (both missed and misinterpreted by mainstream media reporting) is that this research does not claim DTC advertising causes physicians to inappropriately prescribe medications.

The FDA’s own research, over many years, confirms that same diagnosis. It’s important.
The simple fact of the matter (as opposed to the spin) is that statins are not being prescribed to patients who do not have high cholesterol.

DTC Marketing Study Implies Doctors Overprescribe Statins

A new study on direct-to-consumer (DTC) marketing of statin drugs suggests the prevalence of such ads promotes over-diagnosis in patients that may not be at risk for cardiac events. But the study incorrectly implies that physicians are to blame for inappropriate prescriptions, experts say.

A study of 106,000 adults published recently in the Journal of General Internal Medicine showed consumers exposed to advertisements about statins are 16 to 22 percent more likely to be prescribed the drugs, and 16 to 20 percent more likely to be diagnosed with high cholesterol.

These associations were driven almost exclusively by men and women at low risk for future cardiac events, the study states. Use of the popular cholesterol-lowering drugs may lead to an increased risk of Type 2 diabetes, memory loss or confusion, the FDA says.

But don’t blame physicians, Peter Pitts, president and co-founder of the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest and former agency staffer, said Tuesday.

“If you ask your doctor for [AstraZeneca’s] Crestor, they are likely to prescribe Crestor,” he said, adding that he believes the study’s dire conclusions are overblown.

“You either have high cholesterol or you don’t — it’s a simple blood test.”

While reluctant to trumpet brand pharma and its marketing practices, Pitts said anything that drives people to talk to their doctors about symptoms is a good thing and should be applauded.

Drugmakers’ DTC marketing is an ongoing concern at the FDA, with several studies on the issue planned or currently in process. The agency is in the early stages of a survey of healthcare providers about their thoughts on prescription drug advertising and marketing, specifically DTC marketing and how it affects or influences the prescribing of certain medicines.

Earlier this month, the agency launched two studies examining the use of composite score in DTC marketing.

 The Direct-To-Consumer Television Advertising Exposure, Diagnosis with High Cholesterol, and Statin Use study, can be found at www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23463454.


Center for Medicine in the Public Interest is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization promoting innovative solutions that advance medical progress, reduce health disparities, extend life and make health care more affordable, preventive and patient-centered. CMPI also provides the public, policymakers and the media a reliable source of independent scientific analysis on issues ranging from personalized medicine, food and drug safety, health care reform and comparative effectiveness.

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