Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Prescripton Drug Ad: Book One, Chapter One

I was thumbing through my copy of Newsweek recently. The magazine seems to have gotten less interesting and the 'look' of it has become stark and kind of bland, in my opinion. So, there wasn't much goin' on, but in the middle of this slender package of print was a SIX page ad for Seroquel XR. Four of those pages were fine-print, package insert stuff.

Holy crap, I just stared at this monstrosity. Of course, there are many ads in Newsweek for prescription drugs, but this was ridiculous. I'm guessing it's not cheap to run a 6-page ad in any magazine. This is certainly reflected in the price of Seroquel XR, your extended-release version of the already expensive Seroquel that's out there now.

I'm conflicted about direct-to-consumer advertising. I don't think prescription drugs should be a black hole of mystery to people. There may be times when one of these ads gets someone to actually go to the doctor for help, or to have their cholesterol checked, or whatever. We Americans watch our media, you gotta say that. But of course the argument is that if the drug companies weren't paying for this advertising, maybe they could lower their prices. Somehow I don't have a lot of faith in that either.

I do think that every drug ad should be required to state the price of the drug. In a big red box, right at the top of the ad --- the average, cash-paying American customer price. Then maybe people won't look wide-eyed at their Advair/Lipitor/Plavix/Seroquel XR receipt, next to the copay price, and say "Wow, is that how much it REALLY is?"

It sure is, Pharmacy Customer, it suuuurrrre is.


Grumpy, M.D. said...

That's an excellent idea. Never occurred to me, either, but quite obvious. Just have the MSRP at the top of the page, in BIG numbers.

Anonymous said...

What a timely topic.

I've attended two 'luncheons' in the past six months sponsored by Seroquel XR both given by paid psychiatrist speakers accompanied by the company reps in my locale (there aren't a lot of psychiatrists here, either, so ya gotta know that the company had a pretty sweet deal to ask these docs to come and speak for them). Anyway, it was interesting that the selling point was something like an extended indication for bipolar treatment (I think), and the other alternatives are available generically. Anyway, the most telling aspect of the second guy's presentation (same slide show as first guy) was that when hospital department heads and local docs in the clinic asked about the cost of the drug i.e. whether it was on this or that insurance as this or that tier drug, after answering the question the company went on to explain about the 'free' program or program where the drug was accessed at no cost depending on the patient's income level, and also about setting up programs in which the patient divulged their financial status to be placed on a list (I thought Title IX ensured patient confidentiality if they were diagnosed with certain mental illnesses, and being prescribed Seroquel XR is not just for those with 'benign' migraine headaches --nope, not indicated). Finally, the nursing supervisor got to the nitty-gritty (Seroquel XR is NOT on the formulary and we don't see a lot of heavy-duty psych drugs here) and the psychiatrist stated point-blank; 'your patients are not going to be able to pay for this drug if they pay cash'.

Frantic Pharmacist said...

Anonymous above, very informative comment! I happened to check the shelf at work yesterday and found a pile of those 'loyalty' cards next to the Seroquel XR that the drug rep must have brought. I guess that's how they expect to sell the stuff.

Grumpy, M.D. said...

I hate those fucking cards. They leave them at my office. And I toss most of them immediately. Only a few are of any real use.

Phathead said...

I agree with the cost aspect. Maybe there should be some kind of classification for the cost of a drug (Cost Level I, II, etc) because nailing down a set price would be impossible.

There has got to be an easier way for actual prices and such to be relayed to prescribers. We get tons of Rxs for Avelox even though nobody pays for it. It's a waste of time for us, the office and the patient and it can be easily circumvented.

Someone needs to start regulating this type of shit that comes out. Do we really Seroquel XR or Coreg CR, etc etc etc

Pharmacy School Admissions said...

All you need to know is the black box warning! jk