After Studying Three Drugs, Researchers Claim Pharma Advertising Doesn’t Work

From the Wall Street Journal:

Consumer advertising for prescription drugs had a negligible impact on sales of products studied by Harvard Medical School researchers — in a finding that may confound both advertisers and their opponents.

The study may undercut the arguments of opponents of such ads, which have been allowed almost nowhere outside the U.S. Critics say they lead to drug overuse and misuse by impressionable patients pressing their doctors to prescribe what is seen on TV.

But the study also raises the question of whether the pharmaceutical industry’s $4.8 billion annual spending on such ads is a waste of shareholders’ money.

Researchers used advertisements for three drugs for their study: Enbrel, a rheumatoid arthritis drug; Nasonex, which treats nasal allergies; and Zelnorm, an irritable bowel syndrome remedy.

Their choice in drugs make the study interesting, but not groundbreaking.
The reason is that these afflictions generally target adults, excluding an important pharma advertiser audience: Children. HPV/cervical cancer vaccines, now advertised on preteen social networking sites, are attempting to propulgate a vaccine of questionable urgency.

I’d like to see a more comprehensive study, involving drugs targeted at children, people with emotional issues, and perhaps the elderly, before I believe that advertising doesn’t work.