Drug Makers Turn to Customized Prescription Drug Ads
The Wall Street Journal today reports on a new type of marketing "quietly" being used by pharmaceutical companies in which "tailor-made ads are wrapped into the directions and warning labels" given to patients picking up prescriptions at the pharmacy. The ads, paid for by pharmaceutical companies, are contained in "health newsletters" that are generated at pharmacies using software designed by Health Resource Publishing Co., a St. Louis, Mo.-based subsidiary of the company that introduced customized coupons in supermarkets. Pharmacies use the software to design customized ads based on information such as the drug prescribed and the age, gender and insurance status of the patient. The ads are included in the newsletters that typically contain information about the drug prescribed or a rival treatment for the same condition. Over the last three years, the number of pharmacies using such advertising has increased from 3,000 to 17,000, and the ads are included with more than half of the prescriptions filled by chain pharmacies nationwide, according to Health Resource. Critics of the ads say they are "deceptive" and can "threate[n] a pharmacist's ability to offer unbiased counseling to patients," the Journal reports (Armstrong/Zimmerman, Wall Street Journal, 6/14).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.