Are direct-to-consumer ads fueling high drug spending? 4 thoughts

Drug companies are spending more money on direct-to-consumer advertising, causing some critics to question whether the strategy is contributing to high drug spending, reports Kaiser Health News in an article relayed by USA Today.

Here are four things to know.

1. While drug spending for most other product areas stayed steady, spending on direct-to-consumer drug ads increased by 62 percent since 2012. Drug companies spent about $6.4 billion on DTC advertising last year, marking a 5 percent increase from 2015, according to Kantar Media, a consulting firm that tracks multimedia advertising.

2. Drug companies use the ads as a tool to make patients remember drug names and ask their physicians about them. Seventy-two percent of commercial breaks during the CBS Evening Newscontain at least one drug advertisement, according to a Kantar analysis. The drugs often advertise common treatments for conditions that affect this audience demographic like dry eyes, erectile dysfunction or pain, according to the report.

3. Opponents of the ads say they encourage patients to ask their physicians for expensive and often trivial or inappropriate drugs, which fuels high healthcare spending in the U.S.

The American Medical Association called for a complete ban of the ads in 2015, arguing, "direct-to-consumer advertising also inflates demand for new and more expensive drugs, even when these drugs may not be appropriate," according to the report.

4. Previous efforts to take the ads off the air failed due to free-speech arguments from drug lobby groups and claims the ads offer valuable treatment information to patients, according to the report.

More articles on supply chain:

Patients often skip, delay or ration cancer treatments due to high drug costs: 5 takeaways
7 things to know about Dr. Scott Gottlieb's relationship with the drug industry
6 latest FDA approvals

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