Direct-To-Consumer Advertising of Rx Medicines Falls Short of Potential in Return of Investment

The following is a news release from Consumer Health Information Corporation.

For more information contact us at (703) 734-0650.


McLEAN, VA – A leading patient education authority says many direct-to-consumer (DTC) campaigns are falling seriously short of their potential because consumers are not getting the take-home message that pharmaceutical companies think they are sending.

At a recent Drug Information Association (DIA) seminar in New York entitled “Marketing of Pharmaceuticals: How To Be Aggressive and in Compliance,” Dr. Dorothy L. Smith, President of Consumer Health Information Corporation, told the audience: “Patient information programs that meet all the regulations but cannot be understood by consumers become very expensive … and perhaps a waste of money. It just doesn’t make sense to produce materials that are medically accurate and meet the legal and regulatory requirements, but don’t meet the needs of the person who is going to use the product.”

“It is certainly in a company’s best interests to develop a patient compliance strategy for each product, integrate it into the marketing plan, and make the effort to develop messages that can be understood and ‘mean something’ to the consumer,” said Dr. Smith.

“Marketers often dismiss the patient education component of a DTC program as simply a ‘value added’ service that has little or no impact on the bottom line,” noted Dr. Smith. “They may believe that if their DTC campaign or patient information program gains FDA approval and meets the requirements of their company’s legal, regulatory and clinical groups, their program is ready for distribution to the public.”

“However, nothing could be further from the truth,” Dr. Smith said. “The success of any drug therapy hinges on how well consumers understand and believe the information they are given about the medication.”

According to findings reported in Prevention magazine’s 1999 National Survey of Consumer Reactions to DTC Ads, out of every 100 consumers who view a DTC ad:

  • 31 will talk to their doctor about the product
  • 9 will ask for a prescription
  • 7 will actually receive a prescription
  • 6 will get the prescription filled
  • 4 will obtain a first refill
  • 3 will obtain a second refill
  • 2 will obtain a third refill
  • 1 person will make it to the fourth or fifth refill

“Because only one person will follow through to a fourth or fifth refill, companies have lost more than half of their potential refill market – which is larger than the initial prescription market,” she pointed out.

“These statistics remind us that the consumer makes critical decisions about whether to fill or refill a prescription,” Dr. Smith said. DTC messages for consumers can only reach their full potential when they integrate effective patient compliance strategies and behavior modification techniques, she said. In addition, the content must be translated into language the average consumer can understand and reinforced with a “patient-friendly” design that encourages acceptance and understanding.

“A product manager should never think the job is done just because they have been able to bring the wording down to the grade 6 to 8 level,” she said. “Words such as ‘red meat’ and ‘high fat meal’ cannot be understood by many patients even though these words are at the grade 4 level. The key is ensuring that patients can understand the words.”

Dr. Smith noted that a medication can only be safe and effective IF it is taken correctly. It is in the best interests of every product manager to develop a patient compliance strategy for each product, to make that strategy an essential part of their marketing plans, and to develop messages that patients can easily understand and comprehend, she said.

“It can be a win/win situation,” Dr. Smith said. “The product manager can enhance the effectiveness of the DTC campaign by developing programs that focus on retaining patients who received a prescription because of the DTC campaign. Once this is done, patient outcomes will improve, and product sales could more than double.”


Consumer Health Information Corporation is an international leader in patient education, compliance, retention, behavior modification, and direct-to-consumer communication programs. Founded in 1983 and located just outside of Washington, DC, Consumer Health Information Corporation is unique because all of its programs are based on years of actual experience in counseling patients in clinic settings and firsthand knowledge of what patients want and need to know about their medicines. The company’s President, Dr. Dorothy L. Smith, is the author of 23 books that provide consumers with clinically accurate, easy to understand advice on how to use prescription medicines. The company also has years of active leadership in national regulatory issues relating to patient education and national patient medication safety issues. It has professional liaisons with the major national medical, pharmacy and consumer organizations, and is a member of the Board of Directors of the National Council on Patient Information and Education (NCPIE). The company is also affiliated with many schools of the pharmacy across the U.S. and serves as a specialized drug information-teaching site for senior Doctor of Pharmacy candidates.


For more information about the services provided by Consumer Health Information Corporation and how they can help increase the ROI for your company’s prescription drugs, contact us at (703) 734-0650.