Medical marketing in US approached $30B in 2016

Medical marketing in the United States reached $29.9 billion in 2016, up from $17.7 billion in 1997, according to a new analysis published in JAMA.

Direct-to-consumer advertising increased the most rapidly during that two-decade timeframe, jumping from 11.9 percent of total spending to 32 percent of total marketing—or $9.6 billion in 2016. However, pharmaceutical companies peddling their products directly to healthcare professionals comprised about two-thirds of all spending, encompassing practices such as paying physicians for consulting, speaking and travel fees, providing them with free samples and direct physician and hospital payments for disease education.

“Pharmaceutical marketing to health professionals accounted for most spending and remains high even with new policies to limit industry influence,” wrote Dartmouth College researchers Lisa M. Schwartz, MD, MS, and Steven Woloshin, MD, MS. “Despite the increase in marketing over 20 years, regulatory oversight remains limited.”

The report also highlighted the extent to which drug advertising has exploded. A total of 4.6 million ads for prescription drugs hit the marketplace in 2016, including 663,000 TV commercials. That effort cost a combined $6 billion, up from 79,000 total ads costing $1.3 billion in 1997 (when adjusted to 2016 U.S. dollar amounts).

Click here to read the full report, which JAMA editors predicted “will serve as a valuable benchmark for years to come.” The study also dives into the specific ways in which medical marketing takes place, the apparent impact of those campaigns and the regulatory oversight of medical marketing—and how it can improve.