To attract Hispanic consumers, marketing experts say, drug makers should keep the following cultural differences in mind when creating direct-to-consumer TV and print ad campaigns:
Latinos tend to self-medicate more than average consumers. In their native countries, they can buy most non-narcotic medications, including antibiotics, painkillers, contraceptives and other drugs without a prescription. After arriving in the United States, some Latinos turn to tiendas, bodegas, botánicas and swap meets to buy black-market medications smuggled in from back home, report law enforcement and regulatory officials in California and North Carolina.
First-generation and elderly Hispanics often are deferential to doctors and hesitate to ask questions. It's not that Latinos distrust or fear doctors, says Cecilia Alvarez, a professor at Florida International University and co-author (with consultant Michael Saray) of the Kalorama Information study. Rather, she says, Latinos are more serenely fatalistic. "It's values. The attitude is, 'I don't want to know if I have something. If I feel well why should I go? If I'm sick, I will die, so why go?' " she says.
Sixty-eight percent of Hispanics have health insurance, compared to 85 percent of the general market, according to "The Hispanic Market and Pharmaceutical Drugs," a 2004 study commissioned by Telemundo. For its part, the Kalorama study breaks down Hispanics living without insurance: 47.1 percent are "poor," 43.2 percent are "near poor" and 20.5 percent are "not poor."
Many Latinos, especially recent arrivals to the U.S., visit doctors less often than average and don't turn to them first for medical advice. That's a tradition that Latinos bring from their home countries, where they seek health care advice from family, friends and pharmacists. In the U.S., doctors are the primary source of health information for 47 percent of Hispanics, compared to 75 percent of non-Hispanics, according to the Telemundo study. Twenty-two percent of Hispanics listed "nowhere" as the primary source, compared to 6 percent of non-Hispanics.