January 26, 2001

Fifty-one percent of consumers report prescription (Rx) drug advertising keeps them informed of available Rx treatments, according to new information released by The NPD Group. The firm's PharmTrends unit conducted a survey among more than 12,000 individuals which confirmed that consumers agree Rx drug advertising helps them take more control of their personal health care and motivates them to request specific drug brands of their physicians.

"When it comes to health care, consumers are telling us that they want to be more informed of their treatment alternatives," stated Fariba Zamaniyan, senior account manager of NPD PharmTrends. "This is evidenced by their positive response to Rx-branded drug ads. But the key to success for Rx drug advertising is whether or not the ads prompt doctor visits, generate prescription fulfillment for that drug, and improve patients' likelihood to comply with their recommended drug therapy."

NPD's study indicates that consumers aren't flocking to their doctor's office because of an Rx drug they became aware of through advertising. Only 11% of the consumers interviewed report they were actually prompted to make a doctor's appointment to inquire about the Rx drug they saw advertised. Not surprisingly, two-thirds of consumers who were prompted to visit their doctor because of a Rx drug advertisement had Rx drug insurance.

Although consumers may not be making appointments to talk specifically about drugs seen in advertisements, they are communicating with their physicians. NPD's data show they do discuss the Rx drugs they became aware of through advertisements. Nearly a quarter of the respondents asked their doctors about specific Rx drugs they learned about through direct-to-consumer (DTC) ads.

Not all consumers agree that Rx drug advertising is beneficial. Thirty-eight percent of consumers interviewed feel that there is too much advertising for these products. One-third said that the advertisements are too confusing and that they would not like to see more Rx drug advertising in the future.

Certain categories have higher ad recall among consumers. Nearly three-quarters of the patients on a Rx allergy medication recalled an advertisement for their drug. The top-ranking categories for ad recall levels include the following:

TOP CATEGORIES FOR Rx BRAND DRUG RECALL (Rank based on % of buyers that recalled an advertisement for an Rx brand within that category)


Allergy - 67%

Cardiovascular - 33%

Behavioral Disorders - 33%

Gastrointestinal - 33%

Female Health - 30%

"Consumers who are suffering from a disease or condition are more interested in what the Rx drug advertisements have to say," reported Ms. Zamaniyan. "Therefore, we see a correlation between prescription sales and ad recall." NPD PharmTrends confirms that Rx and over-the-counter (OTC) drug sales have seen steady growth. The strongest year for DTC Rx advertising was 1999, which helped drive Rx growth by 18% year over year. In the year ending September 2000, sales growth remained brisk but was slightly less than the peak in 1999, +9%.

Consumers who purchase Rx drugs as part of their treatment regimens report high levels of ad recall for that Rx medication, reports NPD PharmTrends. For example, Viagra tops the list for ad recall among buying consumers. Ninety-two percent of the consumers who purchased Viagra recalled seeing an ad for the brand.

TOP RECALL LEVELS FOR Rx BRAND DRUGS PURCHASED BY CONSUMERS (Rank based on % of buyers that recalled an advertisement for that brand)


No.1 - Viagra

No.2 - Claritin/D

No.3 - Allegra/D

No.4 - Prilosec

No.5 - Ortho-Tricyclen

No.6 - Lipitor

No.7 - Detrol

No.8 - Flonase

No.9 - Paxil

No.10 - Zyrtec

"With more `blockbuster' brands going off-patent in the next few years, it will be more important than ever for drug manufacturers to raise awareness for existing and upcoming formulations," stated Ms. Zamaniyan. "Consumers are receptive to what drug manufacturers have to say about their brands, particularly if they or a family member suffer from the ailment. Drug companies who can use Rx advertising effectively to convert consumers to well-informed buyers and build long-term loyalty will be most successful. These companies should therefore continue to support the use of DTC advertising in their market," stated Ms. Zamaniyan.

For more information at http://www.npd.com.

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