Yang SC. et al., 2023: Regenerative therapies for erectile dysfunction: the influence of direct-to-consumer marketing on patient interest.
Division of Andrology, Department of Urology, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, Los Angeles, CA, USA.
University of Colorado School of Medicine, Aurora, CO, USA.
Background: Despite a lack of evidence, a number of "regenerative" therapies have become popularized treatments for erectile dysfunction (ED). Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections and shockwave therapy have received significant attention through direct-to-consumer marketing and are advertised as viable alternatives to guideline-backed therapies. Additionally, focused low-intensity shock wave therapy (LiSWT) has become conflated with acoustic or radial wave therapy (rWT), although their mechanism of wave generation and tissue penetration is distinct. GAINSWave, a marketing platform for acoustic wave therapy, has also pervaded the marketplace. We aim to evaluate the relative impact of direct-to-consumer marketing of shockwave therapy and PRP by analyzing the quantity of Google internet search queries for selected regenerative and guideline-backed non-regenerative therapies for ED.
Methods: National Google Search trends in the United States (www.google.com/trends) were analyzed to characterize interest in different forms of therapy for ED. Search trends for PRP, LiSWT (and various iterations), intracavernosal injections (ICI), intraurethral injections (IU), vacuum erectile device (VED), and GAINSWave were analyzed. Monthly search data were compiled over multiple years, ending at 2/28/2020, just before the COVID-19 pandemic and state of emergency in the United States. Macro-level changes in public interest were quantified using yearly averages.
Results: Patterns in Google Search interest in PRP and LiSWT increased respectively by 3-fold and 275-fold over the decade, representing a larger share of Google Searches by 2020. Trends in Google Search interest in selected types of shockwave therapy for ED also show that queries for GAINSWave commanded public interest, increasing by 219-fold from 2016 to 2020.
Conclusions: Regenerative therapies for ED have produced interest surpassing other adjunct guideline-backed therapies, despite receiving the designation of "experimental" or "investigational" therapies. The establishment of GAINSWave also constitutes an inflection point for the whole shockwave market: searches for shockwave therapy increased by 782% between 2016 and 2020. Direct-to-consumer marketing of PRP and shockwave therapy has upturned the customary role of physicians in counseling patients about evidence-based therapies for ED. This increase in public interest in GAINSWave emphasizes its success as a marketing platform. The urological community should consider strategies to address misinformation, such as search-engine optimization, social media, and educational outreach.
Transl Androl Urol. 2023 Apr 28;12(4):586-593. doi: 10.21037/tau-22-309. Epub 2023 Mar 17.PMID: 37181238
The paper explores the impact of direct-to-consumer marketing on the popularity of regenerative therapies for erectile dysfunction (ED). The study focuses on platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections and low-intensity shockwave therapy (LiSWT) as regenerative treatments that have gained attention through marketing campaigns. The researchers analyzed Google internet search queries to evaluate the interest in these regenerative therapies compared to guideline-backed non-regenerative treatments for ED.
Regenerative therapies like PRP and LiSWT have become popularized as treatments for ED, despite limited scientific evidence. The study investigates the influence of direct-to-consumer marketing on patient interest in these therapies.
The researchers used Google Trends data to analyze the relative interest in different forms of therapy for ED, including PRP, LiSWT, intracavernosal injections (ICI), intraurethral injections (IU), vacuum erectile devices (VED), and the marketing platform GAINSWave. Search data were compiled over multiple years and analyzed to identify macro-level changes in public interest.
Over the past decade, interest in PRP and LiSWT increased significantly, with PRP searches growing by 3-fold and LiSWT searches increasing by 275-fold. GAINSWave, a marketing platform for shockwave therapy, gained substantial interest, increasing by 219-fold from 2016 to 2020. In contrast, interest in guideline-backed therapies like IU and VED remained relatively flat. Obviously, because of the limited efficacy of these treatment options and their relative invasiveness.
Despite being labeled as "experimental" or "investigational" therapies by professional associations, regenerative therapies for ED have gained more interest from the public than guideline-backed therapies. The study highlights the influence of direct-to-consumer marketing in shaping patient interest in these treatments. The authors suggest that the medical community should consider strategies to address misinformation and educate patients about evidence-based therapies.
In essence, the paper emphasizes how direct-to-consumer marketing has contributed to increased public interest in regenerative therapies for erectile dysfunction, even in cases where scientific evidence supporting these therapies is limited. The findings underscore the need for healthcare professionals to engage in patient education and correct misinformation in the era of online health information-seeking.