Medical marketing skyrockets over past two decades, but oversight remains limited

Healthcare spending in the U.S. is the highest in the world, totaling $3.3 trillion -- or 17.8 percent of the GDP -- in 2016. To capture market share, and to expand the market, drug companies and healthcare organizations use a wide array of promotional activities, including TV and digital advertising, social media, disease awareness campaigns targeting consumers, and marketing to professionals via free drug samples or consulting payments. In an article recently published in the Journal of American Medical Association, researchers 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.

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