Direct-to-Consumer Drug Advertising from a deontological point of view. The primary targets of direct to consumer advertising are the patients rather than the healthcare experts or other stakeholders.
Direct-to-consumer advertising or DTC advertising refers to the mode of marketing that involves mainly medical products. The primary targets of direct to consumer advertising are the patients rather than the healthcare experts or other stakeholders. DTC advertising is regulated by the Food and Drugs Administration agency that sets out the annual revised guidelines for pharmaceutical drug promotion. The most common forms of DTC advertising feature on radio, TV, print and other forms of media. Currently, only the United States and New Zealand have legalized DTC advertising. DTC drug advertising had experienced various scandals in USA, such as in 2004 when Vioxx was withdrawn from the market, after safety alerts were issued over its consumption.
The Kant approach toward direct-to-consumer drug marketing, seeks to understand the intentions of the pharmaceutical companies and to determine if their actions are pure. These companies have two motives in engaging in DTC marketing: one, to market their products and two, to maintain constructive discussion about the drugs with the patients and doctors. These two motives already show a conflict of interest as most of the information is designed not to inform but to sell. The Kantian model stresses the importance of the ability to reason and freedom. The advertisements cunningly lie to the consumers by manipulating their thoughts and hiding the truth about the drug. These companies also aggressively market drugs for non-life threatening diseases such as flu while the drugs for chronic illnesses such as cancer, malaria and AIDS are carefully concealed from the public eye (Arfwedson 14).
The main argument against allowing the uncontrolled airing of DTC advertisements on the media is that, they influence sick people to select various brands of medicine that they may not need medically. Most of the advertisements are normally done by professionals and not medical practitioners who understand the consequences of their speech. A cholesterol drug advert hosted by the drug company, Pfizer, recommended patients to take the drug even though each sick patient had their own unique complications. These adverts prompted patients to diagnose themselves that may be fatal for them later. The advertisements can also be sometimes misleading as the drug may not necessarily be able to cure the disease.
Although direct-to-consumer marketing of pharmaceutical drugs is packaged as trying to increase the levels of consumer knowledge among patients, the real intention of DTC advertising is to drive choice among consumers. The drug companies typically attempt to drive the choice of consumers towards expensive brands of drugs. Consumers were most likely to be given a drug if the mentioned it by name. In the modern economy, the medical practitioners are more inclined to provide consumers with the medicine that they demand instead of advising on the best drugs to take. The real culprits in this chain however, are the pharmaceutical companies who persuade doctors to market their drugs (Norris 67).
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