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DTC prescription drug marketing goes online in US

The US pharmaceutical industry has moved over to online media to build relationships with consumers and cut back on traditional broadcast and print media to promote drugs

The US pharmaceutical industry has moved over to online media to build relationships with consumers and cut back on traditional broadcast and print media to promote drugs, according to Cegedim Dendrite's latest direct-to-consumer Industry Check-Up Survey.

The survey shows that pharmaceutical companies will spend more on online marketing initiatives in 2007 through websites, search-engine marketing and e-mail campaigns.

The US trend shows that companies are relying more on educational programmes at pharmacies, doctors' offices and newsletters to assist in encouraging patients to take their medication, all of which could have a positive effect on public health, the study found.

Another trend identified by the survey was cautious optimism about direct-to-consumer (DTC) spending growth for 2007.

While DTC spending is not experiencing the growth of previous years, nearly half of respondents expect DTC spending to increase in 2007. Only 25 per cent expect it to increase by more than five per cent, however.

The biggest challenge in DTC marketing continues to be government regulations, according to 61 per cent of respondents, which is an increase of 11 per cent on 2006 results.

Negative consumer reaction to DTC marketing was cited as a problem by 31 per cent of respondents, down from 44 per cent in 2006.

The annual survey's responses come from a cross section of US manufacturers, agencies and vendors.

Technology is a promising tool for improving adherence and health outcomes. Mobile text messaging can be used to remind patients to take their medications. A UK-based pilot study showed quantifiable improvements in health outcomes with a mobile text campaign for children with diabetes.

Meanwhile, the use of microelectronic devices to provide feedback on patients' adherence is already being used to monitor of many long-term illnesses. The internet also provides a valuable forum for patients to not only share their frustrations, but also learn how to better manage their disease from their peers. Patients also gather information which may influence their drug use from health information websites and blogs.

Action to improve compliance does not end at the door of patients and doctors. The pharmaceutical industry has a key responsibility to the adherence problem through the reduction of drug regimen complexity.

A white paper on the survey results can be downloaded from the company's website, www.dendrite.com

18th July 2007

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