DCarpet advertisements have long attempted to influence patients’ medical choices, prompting them to “ask their doctor” if a marketed drug is right for them. But now pharma companies have an even more powerful tool to start those conversations and turn them into prescriptions: telemedicine.
When a patient sees an advertisement or visits a manufacturer’s website today, many will find buttons to “talk to a doctor now” about their symptoms. Clicking it will take them to a third-party site that asks questions about their health — and eligibility for the drugmaker’s specific product — before letting them schedule a visit with an online provider.
In most cases, if a patient is eligible, these video and text visits end with a prescription for the drug the patient clicked on. “Generally, it’s consumer driven: I want to know if I can have this medicine. Can you prescribe it for me or not? And that’s the course of action we’re ready for,” said Ross Pope, chief operating and financial officer of Prescribery, a company that provides telehealth integrations to pharmaceutical companies. Once a script reaches a pharmacy, some companies will even consider manufacturer’s coupons or negotiate with insurance to have prescriptions covered.
STAT reports on the rapidly growing advertising-driven telehealth market, which has clear appeal for the pharmaceutical industry and could give some patients easier access to drugs. But experts in medical ethics and health policy worry that this emerging industry could lead to an increase in unnecessary prescribing, which would ultimately benefit the bottom line of the pharmaceutical industry far more than patient care.
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