Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Gardasil for men? Oh, I can see the ads now!

On September 4 The Wall Street Journal reported that the manufacturer of Gardasil, the vaccine that is suppose to prevent HPV in women has now been approved by the FDA for use by young men. I know you could not have missed the prolific advertising campaign for Gardasil, so can you imagine the onslaught of commercials you’re about to see for a male version? I can just see the ads now: young man standing with a beer in one hand and syringe in the other with the tag line “Party On.” No seriously…The subject of direct-to-consumer prescription drug advertising is the subject of my current research. You can see the data from my most recent study of 18-24 year olds here. Part of what concerns me is that pharmaceutical manufacturers are aiming their messages at younger and younger consumers. Gardasil is a product for use by women 9-26 years of age, and while the ads may be directed at moms, those messages are also reaching younger women. Now Gardasil will be advertised to parents of young men, but we all know that young men will see the ads too. This is what I’m calling “ad creep” where direct to consumer prescription drug ads are directed toward younger consumers. Prescription drug advertising has a generalized effect on young people’s attitudes toward prescription drugs. Young consumers don’t think they can be harmed by prescription drugs and are more than willing to share them with friends. Think about the people you know who are taking Adderall, and think how easily such a medication gets circulated among students for whom it is NOT prescribed when they have to study for an exam. Therefore, the prescription drug pump is already primed, and advertisers couldn’t find a better target audience, as Generation Y represents the largest in history. If Gardasil prevents genital warts on young men, then by all means they should be able to learn about it from their doctor. But do we have to advertise it? You can see my video on this subject here.


Johanna said...

I agree with you when you say that this trend of advertising prescription drugs to young people is highly concerning. I feel that young children and adolescents are highly impressionable and prone to the following of certain fads. I was almost shocked when I realized that young children's' Television celebrities promoted acne medicine, because I know the influence these stars have on their lives. To have a child's role model market medicine gives them the impression that these drugs are safe, highly acceptable and even sometimes "cool" . I think there should be stricter guidelines as to the format and actors used in these commercials and that they should instead solely be targeted to the parents who can then make informed decisions about their childrens' health.

Anna said...

I found the concept of the "ad creep" very interesting as well as effective. In fact, I admittedly and unknowingly have fallen victim to such marketing tactics as well. I recall asking my doctor about the Gardasil shot and if it was something he recommended after seeing several commercials for it on such programs as MTV, which I assume targets audiences 18-24.

I think pharmaceutical advertising during television programs directed toward children becomes a matter of ethics. One which I do not necessarily agree with. Personally, I simply feel children should not be exposed to things of that nature.

The fact that Gardasil is now being marketed towards males marks one of the many ways in which medical products are becoming a market which is affecting people's attitudes on medical issues, something that needs to be taken more seriously.