Study: Older Consumers Motivated to Action by DTC Drug Ads

A recent study of the efficacy of direct-to-consumer advertising of prescription medications found that about one-third of adults over age 50 who have seen such advertising have talked to their physicians about a drug they saw advertised.

The study, conducted by Emeryville, CA-based Age Wave Impact Inc., found that about 92 percent of people over age 50 recalled seeing some form of DTC advertising for prescription medications, and 35 percent of those spoke to their doctors about the drug. About 33 percent of the people who spoke to their doctors ended up receiving prescriptions for the drug, according to the survey.

TV was the most likely medium with 86 percent of consumers reporting they had seen a TV commercial for a prescription drug. Magazines followed with 83 percent; then newspapers, 68 percent; direct mail, 61 percent; radio, 40 percent; and the Internet, 6 percent.

Bill Burkart, president of Age Wave Impact's MarComm Group, said even though TV has become a much bigger component of pharmaceutical advertising, he expected drug marketers to continue to use magazines and direct mail in conjunction with television to educate consumers about their products.

“The combination of TV, magazines and direct mail is going to continue to grow,” he said. “On TV, advertisers are referring people to their ads in magazines, and they are using mail for product-information fulfillment.”

According to the study, men were slightly more likely to have seen DTC advertising than women in each of the media. Consumers aged 50 to 64 were more likely to have seen prescription-drug ads than those aged 65 and older.

One interesting finding was that even though only 6 percent of consumers reported seeing ads for prescription drugs on the Internet, about 17 percent of those who did went on to speak with their doctor about the medication. That compares with 16 percent for those who spoke to their doctor after seeing a direct-mail piece and 12 percent for those who heard such an ad on the radio.

About 28 percent of those who saw drug ads on TV spoke to their doctors about the product, making that group the most likely to contact a physician. They were followed by those who saw ads in magazines — 26 percent — and those who saw ads in newspapers — 18 percent.

About 56 percent of consumers reported that the ads made them aware of medication options they had not been aware of, and 46 percent said the ads made them feel more informed about medications.

About 23 percent of consumers said they did not think prescription drugs should be advertised to consumers, including 27 percent of those aged 65 and older and 18 percent of those aged 50 to 64.

Burkart said older consumers tend to place more faith in the opinions of their doctors about drugs, whereas younger consumers tend to be more open to information from other sources. Older consumers tend to think that “the doctor is king, and that's who should be sharing information about drugs, not Oprah, or a commercial on Oprah,” he said.

The study, conducted in last August and September, tabulated results from 2,965 surveys returned by Age Wave Impact's Mature Market Panel households in 21 designated market areas around the country.

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