Pharmaceutical advertising

Communicating effectively with doctors and consumers

Advertising for pharmaceuticals is complex, and intimately tied into domestic regulations in individual countries, which vary quite widely in their detail, even within the supposedly harmonised markets of the EU.

The primary distinction affecting the market is between prescription-only products and those sold over the counter (OTC) to the public. OTC medicines can be advertised, but are subject to tighter regulation than most product categories. Prescription-only products can be advertised direct to consumers (DTC) only in the US.

However, first in the US, before the DTC regulations were loosened by the FDA in the mid-1990s, and more recently in some other countries, pharma companies have been able to run so-called disease awareness campaigns (DACs), which have included non-branded ads for their products (25, 28).