What more can we learn from DTC advertising? FDA's OPDP proposes new research
How do specifics around endorsements, mechanism of action and medication tracking in pharmaceutical ads impact consumers? That’s what the FDA’s Office of Prescription Drug Promotion (OPDP) wants to find out in three new studies.
OPDP has proposed three research projects on direct-to-consumer marketing, according to federal register notices posted last week. The studies would join the agency’s roster of 13 ongoing projects covering a wide range of topics, from accelerated approval disclosure to interpretation of drug names.
However, while acknowledging the importance of such research, one FDA regulatory watchdog said in a recent blog post that the new studies are “more of the same old focus.”
“They’ve built up a huge body of research, and a lot of it is very nuanced, really focusing in on the impact of very specific situations in terms of promotional communications,” Mark Senak, a lawyer at FleishmanHillard who tracks FDA actions on his Eye on FDA blog, told Endpoints News on Wednesday.
“The thing is, since 2008, let’s say, there’s been a huge migration in terms of media consumption and health-seeking information using the internet and digital and social communications, and I have not seen a corresponding shift in the emphasis of the research that follows that,” he added.
The new studies would examine the type and disclosure of endorsements in TV ads, promotion of medication tracking tools, and use of graphics and targeted mechanism of action claims to explain how a drug works.
The latter proposal builds on a series of focus groups OPDP hosted in 2014 to determine how consumers interpret the word “targeted” in promotional materials.
“Although diverse views were voiced, there appeared to be some tendency toward the impression that products with promotional materials using this term would be safer and more effective than other similar treatments,” OPDP’s notice states.
Researchers in the new study would investigate how consumers view graphics and other specific mechanism of action disclosures on a webpage for a fake drug.
The second study, entitled “Perceptions of Prescription Drug Products With Medication Tracking Capabilities,” also uses a fictitious webpage to gauge consumers’ thoughts on the use of software such as smartphone apps to track medication use.
The first, however, homes in on TV marketing, which still accounts for a significant portion of advertisers’ budgets, despite efforts to diversify the advertising media mix, with online video and audio programming on the rise.
While an ongoing OPDP study has examined the impact of different types of endorsers for pharmaceutical drugs online and in print, this study would examine actual-use disclosures in TV ads.
“Prior research has shown that endorsements by expert physicians and pharmacists were the most likely to lead to purchase intentions, followed by endorsements by consumers, and lastly, by celebrities,” OPDP said.
“It feels like even though a lot of people are getting their information via social and digital, the research hasn’t looked into the nuance of that to the same degree that they continue digging in the vein of DTC broadcast,” Senak said. “Heck, pharma’s even using TikTok at this point.”