Pharmaceutical Advertising in Medical Journals image

CHEST, Volume 153, Issue 1
Michael S. Sinha, Aaron S. Kesselheim, and Jonathan J. Darrow (Student Fellow Alumnus)


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From the article:

Marketing efforts across many industries, including the health-care industry, have shifted toward digital advertising through web-based, social media, and mobile application platforms. Still, as recently as 2015, the health-care industry expended nearly twice as much on advertisements in traditional print media ($2.39 billion) as on digital advertising ($1.22 billion).1 For professional medical journals alone, $637 million was spent in 2016 on nearly 100,000 pages of print advertisements.2

Traditional print-based advertising in medical journals remains particularly attractive to pharmaceutical manufacturers because print versions of such journals reach 90% of physicians, a figure that rises to 96% when print and digital versions are considered together.3 For journals, selling advertisements4 generates revenue that helps offset the rising costs of maintaining a print presence in an increasingly digital era. These costs include salaries of senior editors and staff who administer the peer review process, business coordination with publishers, online peer review platforms, online hosting, copy editing, digital production of articles, maintenance of subscriber databases, marketing, filing copyrights, and production of print versions. Advertisements enable pharmaceutical manufacturers to target physicians precisely and try to sway prescribing practices in favor of the product being advertised, regardless of whether it is the most efficacious or cost-effective option for a patient. Although some physicians may not believe that they are influenced by advertising, studies indicate a return on investment between $3 and $5 for every dollar a pharmaceutical company spends on journal advertising.5Return on investment was also found to be greater for older drugs (> 4 years on the market) than for newer drugs (< 4 years on the market).6

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