Former President & CEO, INTEGRIS Health

Rx Meds vs Car Sales

Published in The Journal Record
June 29, 2016

Have you ever wondered why there are so many advertisements on television and radio for prescription medications? On any night of observing your favorite TV shows you will hear and see as many advertisements for prescription drugs as you do for car sales.  From indigestion pills to foot fungus ointments, apparently everything is fair game for advertisers.

What’s curious is you cannot just buy these products. They require a physician’s prescription.  If you’re enamored with a particular product it will require you to get an appointment with your doctor and then a request that he or she prescribe this medicine.  While you are the ultimate purchaser, you are not the ultimate decision maker.

The obvious question is why pharmaceutical companies spend billions of dollars on direct-to-consumer advertisements when the consumer cannot purchase the product on their own. The answer is relatively simple.  They do it because it works.

Statistics reveal that up to 80% of the time when a patient requests a prescription drug by name the physician is likely to honor that request. Why is this so?  The main thing we purchase from our doctor is their time.  Time (along with their expertise), and billing for use of that time, are their products.

Apparently, when a patient asks for the purple pill they’ve seen on television, the typical physician reaction is to honor that request for one simple reason. It saves time.  If the doctor explains why a drug is unnecessary to every patient who asks for one by name, that physician has probably used 15-20 minutes.  This is time that could be devoted to another patient.  This could add up to an hour or more a day to a busy schedule.  This also means a physician may see one or two fewer patients a day than they otherwise would which becomes a significant income drop.  Seemingly, if it’s not going to kill or harm you, it is simply easier for the doctor to write the order than to patiently explain to the patient the drug’s appropriateness.

We are one of the few countries in the world to allow direct consumer advertising. Any wonder our drug companies are financial juggernauts, or that the medication portion of the health care bill is out of control?

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