A national FDA survey shows that nearly one quarter of recent doctor visits included a request for a specific brand of medicine. The telephone survey of 943 adults on the effectiveness of DTC advertising found that 69 percent of patients requesting a specific brand received a prescription for it.
The survey also found that DTC advertising seems to be linked to an increase in doctor appointments-5 percent of respondents said an ad sparked an office visit. The pharma industry has argued for years that television and magazine prescription drug advertising improves public health by prompting people to visit doctors for conditions they otherwise wouldn't come in for. But critics argue that those effects of DTC may contribute to overprescription of some medications.
Survey questions addressed differences in efficacy between prescription and over-the-counter treatments, patients' recollections of pharma advertising, differentiating between OTC or prescription drug ads, and whether ads drove consumers to seek more information about the advertised medicine.Although the findings show that consumer awareness of specific brands is higher than it was a few years ago, the messages don't always come through clearly. TV ads for pharma products fail to mention what to do in case of an overdose, yet 12 percent of respondents reported seeing overdose information in TV ads. For the full survey results, go to www.fda.gov/cder/ddmac/dtcindex.htm.