DDW: Drug Promotion, Especially to Docs, Ups Sales

Every $243 spent on professional promotion of Zelnorm resulted in one more prescription
By Rick Ansorge
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, June 2 (HealthDay News) -- Direct-to-consumer drug advertising is associated with a temporary increase in physician visits and diagnoses, but drug promotion to physicians is associated with a significant increase in prescriptions, according to research presented this week at the annual Digestive Disease Week conference, held from May 30 to June 4 in Chicago.

Spencer D. Dorn, M.D., of the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, and colleagues analyzed 1997 to 2005 data from the National Ambulatory/Hospital Medical Care Surveys, as well as the IMS Health's Integrated Promotional Services and National Prescription Audit Plus to assess the results of a multi-million dollar campaign to increase sales of the irritable bowel syndrome drug tegaserod (Zelnorm).

During the first three months of the campaign, the researchers found that physician visits for irritable bowel syndrome symptoms increased by one million, resulting in 397,025 more irritable bowel syndrome diagnoses. Because physician visits and diagnoses eventually returned to baseline levels, the researchers concluded that the direct-to-consumer advertising campaign had no significant effect over time. But they also found that promotion to physicians had a significant effect, calculating that every $243 spent resulted in one additional prescription for tegaserod.

"Promotion to physicians may result in overprescribing and overuse of even mildly effective drugs such as tegaserod before adequate information on their health risk is available," Dorn said in a statement.

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