Deadline: April 10th, Transforming Health Systems

Deadline: April 10th, Transforming Health Systems
Have an innovative business model to guide #Healthcare?

Telling clever stories with misleading ads

Well, first, let's explore direct-to-consumer advertising, namely the television commercial. Most prescription drug commercials follow the same script progression: First, the commercial shows how bleak life was for a person or character before taking whatever prescription medicine the commercial is advertising. Then, the protagonist demonstrates or tells how wonderful life is while on the drug. Finally, a voiceover obligingly lists the side effects, often speaking as quickly and inaudibly as possible.

Take, for example, a Paxil commercial that was recently popular. At the beginning of the commercial, the typical 30-something-year-old woman is standing outside a house, looking through the window at the happy party going on inside. She looks so lonely and depressed that it must break nearly every consumer's heart. "What's wrong with her?" we compassionate humans gasp in unison. The voiceover answers our question as we think it: The woman has social anxiety disorder, a condition that can be treated with the prescription drug Paxil.

Suddenly, the now-medicated woman rings the doorbell and, with a huge smile on her face, joins the party. We see how much fun she is having and we are so happy for her! Of course, the voiceover quickly goes through the list of Paxil's potential side effects, but how can we concentrate on that, when we're so busy rejoicing at the woman's new happiness? Whoever wrote that commercial should write Hallmark movies. After seeing it a few times, I was convinced that most of my non-immediate family had social anxiety disorder and I even called one relative up to suggest that she take Paxil. I'm not even a gullible person, yet I was persuaded by pharmaceutical company advertising.

Doctors prescribe whatever the patient names

We are what Strand calls a "self-medicated" society. Consumers do not actually write their own prescriptions, but they practically do, based on whatever drugs they see advertised on television. Strand writes, "Surveys reported in our medical literature reveal that when a patient comes into a doctor's office and requests a specific drug that he has seen advertised in the media, the doctor writes the exact prescription the patient requested more than 70 percent of the time!"

So, let's say that a consumer who has been feeling a little sad lately sees a commercial for the antidepressant drug Zoloft. The commercial demonstrates the symptoms for depression and the consumer identifies with them. Suddenly, he or she thinks, "I'm not just sad. I'm depressed, which is a 'medical condition that can be treated by the prescription drug Zoloft.'" With this in mind, the consumer goes to a medical doctor and says, "I've been really depressed a lot lately. I've been [the consumer recites the depression symptoms listed in the Zoloft commercial]. I think I need Zoloft." So, according to Strand, there's a 70 percent chance the doctor will prescribe Zoloft, the exact prescription the consumer requested. That's how pharmaceutical commercials really work. They directly influence consumer behavior, yet drug companies claim they only "educate" patients, but don't persuade them to do .