Medical Marketing Has Skyrocketed, While Oversight Remains Limited

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From Medical Xpress: “In an article recently published in the Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA), researchers from The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice reviewed medical marketing (the marketing of prescription drugs, disease awareness, laboratory tests and health services to consumers and professionals) over a 20-year period from 1997 through 2016 and found that while it had increased dramatically from about $17.7 billion to $29.9 billion, regulation has not.

‘Because the goal of medical marketing is to shape our perceptions of the benefits and harms of drugs, treatments, and even of diseases, themselves, it can have a very significant impact on healthcare and can even hamper efforts to control unsustainable healthcare spending,’ says Dartmouth Institute Professor Steven Woloshin, MD, who co-authored the paper with his wife and longtime research partner, the late Professor Lisa Schwartz, MD. (Dr. Schwartz passed away in November of 2018).

In their review of spending, Schwartz and Woloshin found that the most rapid increase was in direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertising, which increased from $2.1 billion (11.9% of total spending) in 1997 to $9.6 billion (32% of total spending) in 2016. […]

‘I think our findings highlight that there is a lot of room to be more active in regulating medical marketing. Enacting better oversight of product detailing or adding tables that quantify the benefits and adverse effects of drugs to  are two examples we cited in the paper, but there are many feasible steps that could be taken which could potentially improve the quality of health information and cut back on overprescribing and unnecessary medical ,’ Woloshin says.”

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