The Role of Marketing: Part 1

Big Pharma’s Advertising

Pharmaceutical companies spend billions of dollars every year to advertise their products in the United States. In 2014, Big Pharma reportedly paid a total of $6.49 billion on marketing, considerably larger than research and development. Their target audiences include consumers and physicians.

Consumer Oriented Advertising

Big Pharma engages in direct-to-consumer advertising. In fact, the U.S. and New Zealand are the only countries that allow pharmaceutical companies to directly advertise to customers (DrugWatch). The FDA oversees the ads, which typically come in three forms: product claim, reminder ads and help seeking ads.   When companies do not comply with the advertising standards of the FDA, they are hit with billion dollar fines (DrugWatch).

The advertisements often times include a celebrity, actors or a cartoon of some sort (DrugWatch). Opponents of direct-to-consumer ads critique its misleading nature. Consumers may be tempted to believe that a celebrity endorser actually takes the drug or that the actors are legitimate doctors (DrugWatch).

Click the link to watch an ABILIFY® ad

Physician Oriented Advertising  

Big Pharma invests in marketing directly to health care providers to encourage them to prescribe their drugs. They even target residents still attending medical school (DrugWatch). Marketing activities directed at physicians include sale pitches, promotional activities, meals and gifts (DrugWatch). The industry also administers free medication samples to physicians, which has been shown to increase prescriptions of the endorsed medication (Pew Results).

Big Pharma also invades medical conventions by sending doctors unwarranted promotional items, concert tickets or invitations to free dinners (DrugWatch). Physicians can also get paid for speaking and writing on behalf of the benefits of a certain drug. Furthermore, Big Pharma tends to direct resources to doctors with a known history of extensive prescribing (DrugWatch).  According to Open Payments data, approximately 607,000 physicians in the country have a payment record affiliated with Big Pharma.

Why Pharmaceuticals Companies Must Advertise

The direct-to-consumer advertising tactic has proven to be extremely profitable; for every dollar spent by Big Pharma, they averaged about $4.20 in return (Abrams). Physicians are also more likely to prescribe a specific brand of a drug when they have a fiscal history with its company (DrugWatch). Finally, it is imperative for companies to establish relationships with health professionals because there is little product differentiation within the market.

Work Cited

Abrams, Micheal. “Big Pharma’s Direct to Consumer Advertsing Corrupts America’s Heath Culture.” IVN. 3 May 2012. Web. 10 Dec. 2015.

“Basics of Drug Ads.” Prescription Drug Advertising. FDA, 19 Jun. 2015. Web. 10 Dec. 2015.

“Persuading the Prescribers: Pharmaceutical Industry Marketing and its Influence on Physicians and Patients.” Prescription Project. Pew Results, 11 Nov. 2013. Web. 10 Dec. 2015.

“Pharmaceutical Marketing.” Big Pharma. Drugwatch, 25 Aug. 2015. Web. 10 Dec. 2015.

“Basics of Drug Ads.” Prescription Drug Advertising. FDA, 19 Jun. 2015. Web. 10 Dec. 2015.


Andy. “ABILIFY (aripiprazole) Anti-Depressant Add-on Treatment- BMS.flv.”Online video clip.  Youtube . Youtube, 27 Feb. 2011. Web. 14 Dec. 2015.

“Basics of Drug Ads.” Prescription Drug Advertising. FDA: U.S. Food and Drug Administration, 19 Jun. 2015. Web. 13 Dec. 2015.

“The FACTS About Open Payments Data.” 2014 Totals. Open Payment Data. Web. 13 Dec.2015.