A Perspective on Pharmaceutical Marketing Practices: Message Development, Media Selection, Medication Adherence and Health Literacy

According to the National Action Plan to Improve Health Literacy issued in 2010 by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, health literacy is a multi-faceted concept and has importance for multiple sectors. Stakeholders typically involved in the health literacy discussion include government, public health officials, practitioners and those concerned with health promotion (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 2010). In addition to these stakeholders, there is the opportunity for the pharmaceutical industry to be an active participant in the health literacy discussion.

Given the variation in health literacy levels among the U.S. population and the impact of low levels of health literacy on the pharmaceutical industry in the areas of marketing communications and medication adherence, the industry should recognize health literacy as an important criterion in the development and delivery of marketing messages as well as adherence strategies. Each of these areas has an economic impact for the pharmaceutical industry as well as the health care industry as a whole. This paper highlights important considerations for the pharmaceutical industry related to health literacy definitions, variations in health literacy levels among particular populations, and marketing practices in the areas of messaging, media selection and medication adherence.