Dynamic Chiropractic – July 2, 2005, Vol. 23, Issue 14

Why Can't We Do the Math?

By Donald M. Petersen Jr., BS, HCD(hc), FICC(h), Publisher

A recent study1 looked at the effects of direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertising for prescription drugs. Drug companies spent a whopping $3.2 billion dollars in 2003 to influence the habits of health care consumers in the United States.

This astronomical dollar figure is apparently increasing, and for obvious reasons, as the study makes clear.

The study utilized "standardized patients" (SPs): people who pretended to have a particular problem. The SPs made unannounced visits to the offices of various medical doctors. They provided the MDs with complaints that would suggest they either had "major depression" or an "adjustment disorder." The SPs then either requested a specific, well-advertised drug, any drug, or made no drug request.

The study revealed two important points that the drug companies certainly already know:

1. Any Drug Request Causes More Prescriptions: When a major depression SP made no requests during their unannounced visit, they still received a prescription 31% of the time. However, when they made a general drug request, they received a prescription 76% of the time, and when they requested a specific drug, they received a prescription 53% of the time.

Adjustment disorder SPs received a prescription only 10% of the time when they made no request; 39% of the time if they made a general request for a drug; and 55% of the time if they requested a specific drug. In this case, a person asking for any drug got a prescription almost four times as often as one who didn't, and a person making a request for a specific drug got one five and a half times as often.

2. Requesting a Specific Drug Yields Huge Results: Major depression SPs making no drug requests were prescribed the advertised drug only 4.2% of the time. Adjustment disorder SPs never got the advertised drug if they made no drug request.

When the major depression and the adjustment disorder SPs made general drug requests, they received the advertised drug 2% and 10.2% of the time, respectively. But when the SPs (major depression and adjustment disorder) asked for the advertised drug, they received a prescription for that drug 27.4% of the time (more than one out of four in the major depression group) and 36.7% of the time (more than one out of three in the adjustment disorder group), respectively.

The drug companies have already done the math!

They know that they sell billions of dollars worth of drugs, just by getting consumers to ask for them. They've done the analysis and know what they should be spending to increase their sales and market share.

OK, let's do some of our own math:

  • Almost 300 million people in the United States;
  • Approximately 60,000 doctors of chiropractic;
  • Roughly 5,000 patients per DC;
  • Every 1% increase in market share equates to 50 new patients for you.

What is the value of 50 new patients to your practice each year? What should we spend to get that 1% increase in market share?

Would you be willing to invest in such a program?

The Campaign for Chiropractic has done the math. The numbers are obvious. It's time this profession began reaching consumers with information that will encourage them to seek chiropractic.

We already know DTC advertising works. After 110 years, isn't it time to launch a profession wide DTC campaign of our own?

Please read the "Think Again" articles, beginning on page four of this issue and future issues of Dynamic Chiropractic. Over the next few months, you will have reason to get very excited, as this publication and many other chiropractic organizations come together to make the Campaign for Chiropractic a reality.


  1. Kravitz RL, Epstein RM, Feldman MD, et al. Influence of patients' requests for direct-to-consumer advertised antidepressants. JAMA 2005;293:1995-2002


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