Direct-to-consumer advertisements for prescription drugs: what are Americans being sold? LANCET Woloshin, S., Schwartz, L. M., Tremmel, J., Welch, H. G. 2001; 358 (9288): 1141-1146


Pharmaceutical companies spent US$1.8 billion on direct-to-consumer advertisements for prescription drugs in 1999. Our aim was to establish what messages are being communicated to the public by these advertisements.We investigated the content of advertisements, which appeared in ten magazines in the USA. We examined seven issues of each of these published between July, 1998, and July, 1999.67 advertisements appeared a total of 211 times during our study. Of these, 133 (63%) were for drugs to ameliorate symptoms, 54 (26%) to treat disease, and 23 (11%) to prevent illness. In the 67 unique advertisements, promotional techniques used included emotional appeals (45, 67%) and encouragement of consumers to consider medical causes for their experiences (26, 39%). More advertisements described the benefit of medication with vague, qualitative terms (58, 87%), than with data (9, 13%). However, half the advertisements used data to describe side-effects, typically with lists of side-effects that generally occurred infrequently. None mentioned cost.Provision of complete information about the benefit of prescription drugs in advertisements would serve the interests of physicians and the public.

View details for Web of Science ID 000171399000011

View details for PubMedID 11597668