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CyberKnife ads in NY subway raise 'direct-to-consumer' marketing questions at AUA

by Thomas Dworetzky, Contributing Reporter | May 09, 2019

Such DTC marketing is far from new, although the researchers did state that they believe this is the first-ever DTC marketing study specifically concerning urology.

In 2016, for example, then New York Times correspondent and now editor-in-chief of Kaiser Health News, Dr. Elisabeth Rosenthal, reflected on the DTC challenge, stating at the time that, “a little more than a decade ago, most health care advertising was confined to mass-market drugs, and hospitals and doctors generally considered the practice tacky or ethically dubious. More often than not, the ads appeared in unassuming places like cheaper women’s magazines or the New York subway — for decades New Yorkers sat beneath ubiquitous rainbow posters for Dr. Jonathan Zizmor that promised to conquer blemishes: 212-594-SKIN!”

Prescription drug makers were then spending about $4.8 billion a year, and hospital advertising was also booming — up 40 percent in 2014 from 2011, to $2.3 billion, according to Rosenthal's report.

The marketing is aimed at increasing share in a growing and increasingly crowded radiation oncology market.

A 2017 report highlighted a number of factors behind the growth of the global cancer market for oncology, then set to reach $10.1 billion by 2025.

A rising cancer rate is “the prime factor responsible for substantial growth of [the] radiation oncology market over the forecast period,” according to the market analysis by Grand View Research.

“The American Cancer Society projects a total of 1,660,290 new cancer cases and 580,350 cancer deaths in the United States in 2013,” wrote radiation oncologist Dr. John Powell in a 2017 issue of the Stargazette newspaper, noting that, “it is encouraging that overall cancer death rates in the U.S. have declined 20 percent from the peak in 1991, yet cancer remains one of our greatest public health challenges, as well as a life-changing diagnosis for patients.”

He noted that between half and two-thirds of these patients will get radiation treatment either for curative or palliative reasons during the course of their illness.

Partly fueling this growth in radiotherapy are technological advancements, which have led to this modality's increased share as “a primary treatment line of cancer,” the market analysts reported. Such advances include breakthroughs in compact advanced options such as CyberKnife, Gamma Knife, and tomotherapy.

“These advanced methods pose lesser postoperative complications and faster recovery time,” noted the review, which has added to growth of radiotherapeutic approaches.

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