Consumers worldwide overwhelmingly prefer medicines that have been around a long time to the latest treatments, and over half prefer generics to branded drugs given the choice, according to a DDB Health survey.

Asked whether they would prefer the latest medicine in its field or one that has been around for awhile, 70% said they’d take the tried-and-true drug over the latest and greatest, and 54% of the 1,800 in 11 countries surveyed said they prefer generics to branded drugs. Of US respondents, 69% said they prefer generics. The finding points to a need to better differentiate newer drugs, said the report. 

“Consumers are not going to be as motivated to take action based solelyon higher-order/emotional end benefits in the pharmaceutical, or evenin the well-being, space,” said Maria Tender, DDB director of brandplanning. “Today, more than ever, they will need to see tangiblebenefits ascribed to brands.”

Half of consumers and 44% of doctors said they’d do anything to avoid taking medication until absolutely necessary. Behind that, the report said, is distrust of the drug industry, but also a sense that medication represents personal failure or moral compromise. Marketers must give these consumers permission to seek outside help, the report suggested.

“When communicating to patients about medicines, whether those communications are branded or unbranded, patients need to be reassured that they have not been bad,” said the report. “A layer of guilt (if it does exist) needs to be removed before they will take action.”

Of US respondents, 55% said there had been more negative press about pharmas in the past five years, and 47% said they trust drug companies less than they did five years ago. That reflects, in part, democratization of and access to information, the report concluded. On the upside, consumers believe overwhelmingly that the benefits of most medicines outweigh the risks (67%) and that modern medicine has improved society (77%).

Asked to pick between the statements “Taking a medicine every day makes me feel old” and “Taking a medicine every day makes me feel healthy,” consumers in North America, Europe and India favored “healthy” by margins of around 3-2, while more in Mexico, China, Singapore and Australia said drugs make them feel old.  

Two-thirds of consumers said they’d accept a doctor’s recommendation to take a drug rather than try to self-manage a condition.

The study, by DDB Health and its Omnicom sibling M/A/R/C Research, surveyed consumers and physicians in the US, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, the UK, France, Germany, China, India, Australia and Singapore.