Benefit to Public Health Lost in Debate Over DTC Advertising
Nancy Ostrove, Deputy Director of FDA's Division of Drug Marketing, Advertising and Communications, said “The study suggests that DTC informs consumers about both the benefits and the risks of advertised medicine. Although there is room for improvement, giving consumers information in a balanced way should help them participate in their own care and serve the public health.”
Ed Slaughter, Director of Market Research at Rodale, the parent company of Prevention magazine, adds, “The legitimate debate over the positive and negative results of Direct-to-Consumer advertising seems to be coming down to cost versus public health. While there clearly are cost implications, the fact is this form of advertising informs millions of Americans about their treatment options, and helps them to have open discussions with their doctor about important health issues. Often times, these discussions result in doctors giving general health recommendations - not necessarily a prescription medicine.”
Survey data comes from telephone interviews with a nationally representative sample of 1,601 adults age 18 or older living in the continental United States. Interviews were conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates during the period of September 19, 2001 to November 7, 2001. The margin of error due to sampling and other random effects is plus or minus three percentage points for results based on the total sample.
This study builds on an ongoing body of consumer research conducted by Prevention magazine and its parent company Rodale that provides a broad-based understanding of preventive health and self-care in the United States.
The survey revealed that 81% (156 million) of Americans say DTC advertising informs them about new treatments for a condition they may be suffering from. Another 64% (123 million) say DTC advertising helps them be more involved in decisions about which medicine is right to take. Also, 80% (154 million) say DTC informs them about the benefits of the drug while nearly 70% (135 million) say it informs them of the risks of the drug.
The survey also reveals that 57% (55 million) of Americans who use prescription drugs have seen advertising for "their" medicine. Nearly 40% (22 million) of those people say the ad makes them feel better about the benefits.
Additionally, 34% (19 million) say the ad makes them feel better about safety and 17% (9 million) say the ads make them more likely to take their medicine.
Ostrove states, “Although the results are not 100% conclusive - The data seems to suggest a positive association between advertising and compliance. That relationship is important because many of the advertised medicines treat long-term chronic disease. Anything to keep people compliant with their course of treatment should have public health benefits and might even reduce long-term health care costs.”
Additional findings of the study demonstrate that 99% (191 million) of Americans have seen a DTC advertisement and 32% (61 million) of Americans have talked to their doctor about an advertised medicine. Half (31 million) of those received the prescribed medicine they talked to their doctor about (underscoring the marketing benefit to pharmaceutical companies). And, 27% (16 million) say their relationship with their doctor has improved because of the conversation they had with their doctor.
Speaking of doctor-patient relationships, according to another study released yesterday, physicians report that Direct-to- Consumer (DTC) advertising can be an important and productive part of the office visit according to the results of a new study by Market Measures/Cozint. Doctors say DTC advertising of prescription drugs enhances the quality of physician/patient visits. These new study findings are important because both patients and physicians believe that a strong doctor patient relationship is critical to patient health.
Physicians say that DTC advertising has significant and desirable benefits on healthy behaviors such as prompting doctor visits among appropriate patients, increasing receptivity to treatment and leading to more thorough discussions about healthcare. The study also revealed that almost 70% of physicians do not feel pressure to prescribe medication requested by patients who saw a DTC advertisement. Additionally, more than 80% of physicians reported that the drugs discussed were appropriate for the patients.
While some physicians surveyed acknowledge that DTC advertising may have a negative effect on office visits, more than four times as many physicians consider DTC ads to play a beneficial role in the physician/patient interaction. Sixty-one percent of physicians reported that DTC ads have a beneficial effect on interactions with patients.
When asked to describe the beneficial effects of patient awareness of DTC ads on their interaction with patients, doctors reported that DTC ads inform and educate patients and increase patient's receptivity to discussing treatments. Physicians also reported that the advertising often leads to more thorough discussions on subjects such as suitable products, efficacy and side effects.
This study was funded by Pfizer Inc.