AARP to pharma: dough-not mess this up for us

In 2019, drugmakers will cover more costs for patients enrolled in Medicare Part D, and the AARP is intent to make sure it stays that way. The new policy is focused on the plan’s “donut hole,” or coverage gap between initial coverage and catastrophic coverage. Donut explanation here. Currently, manufacturers provide drugs for that gap at a 50% discount, but the new policy pushes that to 70%. The “lame duck” legislative session between now and the end of the year could be the pharma industry’s last chance to lobby against that measure. To ensure that doesn’t happen the AARP is launching a radio, digital, and print ad campaign to get legislators to reject pharma lobbying. So you can expect to see seniors shaking their canes at Congress this December in addition to their traditional yearly yelling at carolers.

Show me the drug money

While any DTC drug commercial will likely include shots of people happily hiking and a list of side effects longer than the symptoms of the disease it’s curing, one thing you won’t see advertised is the price of the prescription. New federal policy could change that for drugs covered under Medicare and Medicaid, forcing companies to disclose list prices in TV advertisements. While most patients don’t typically pay the full price for their prescriptions, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar says, “They deserve to know if the drug company has pushed their prices to abusive levels.” PhRMA says their members would be willing to include a link to a website that has pricing information in advertisements, to which Azar pretty much replied, that’s not what I meant.

Smoking kills… eleven years later

Ready to see an exciting video? Then don’t click on that. It’s an anti-smoking ad paid for by “Big Tobacco,” and boy is it a snoozer. That’s not exactly a surprise considering the four companies court-ordered to pay for this ad campaign have been fighting tooth and nail to not have to. A quick timeline: in ’99 the US Justice Department filed a racketeering lawsuit, which tobacco companies spent a short seven years in court fighting before a judge ruled they had to pay for these ads. A measly eleven years of denied appeals later, you’ll be able to see the ads start running this weekend on primetime network television. Joe Camel would roll over in his grave if that hump wasn’t in the way.

$2.8B to scare the tar out of you

What’s a sure-fire way to see your physician’s expression change? During your visit, simply say “I was looking on WebMD yesterday and now I think [fill in the blank].” WebMD is one of the most valuable healthcare internet properties and soon you won’t be able to buy its stock. KKR (massive private equity firm) announced this week that it is buying WebMD for $2.8B. WebMD gets most of its revenue from advertisers—and pharma companies are among the largest spenders. But that has dropped off, prompting WebMD to look for options. We suspect KKR is banking on an increase in new drug approvals (read – advertising money) to improve WebMD’s financials. That, and a pharma-friendly FDA wouldn’t hurt either.

“More ads! More ads!”

…said no one …ever. Turns out doctors are no exception. 2,784 physicians across 25+ specialties participated in a survey conducted by Manhattan Research about how physicians access information and use technology.  Doctors are not impressed with pharma websites. In fact, only 27% of doctors find pharma websites to be credible information sources. For all you non-math majors out there, that ain’t high. Physicians feel pharma-sponsored info on third-party sites is “always ads” when what they really want are “education resources rooted in science.” Maybe pharma will see this study, cut back on the ads, and up the educational content? That’ll happen about the time every other industry volunteers to do the same thing (P.S. that’s not gonna happen).

2. Easier to understand – Quantum physics or DTC pharma ads?

Side effects of reading this might include… What does over $5 billion in DTC ad spending get drug makers these day? Answer: Confused patients. InCrowd surveyed 319 US physicians to gauge their views on patient understanding of DTC ads. 65% of the surveyed MDs said their patients do not generally understand info given in pharmaceutical ads. Only a measly 13% of docs said “most of my patients can interpret/understand” these ads. Brand managers won’t be jumping for joy over these stats.  While one-third of physicians would like to ban the ads completely, the other two-thirds think the ads should be improved. InsightCity would like to heartily congratulate any company that keeps the list of disclaimers under one minute.