Consumers say DTC ads do a good job

February 1, 2002

Pharmaceutical Representative

Nearly one in three adults has talked to a doctor in response to a drug advertisement, and one in eight has received a prescription.

Nearly one in three adults has talked to a doctor in response to a drug advertisement, and one in eight has received a prescription, according to a new survey by the Menlo Park, CA-based Kaiser Family Foundation.

The survey examined the public's response to drug ads in general, as well as to ads for three medications shown to some respondents prior to the survey: New York-based Pfizer Inc.'s Lipitor® (atorvastatin calcium); Wilmington, DE-based AstraZeneca LP's Nexium® (esomeprazole magnesium); and Whitehouse Station, NJ-based Merck & Co. Inc.'s Singulair® (montelukast sodium).

Key findings

The survey revealed that:

•Â Nearly a third (30%) of adults have talked to their doctor about a drug they saw advertised, and 44% of those who talked to their doctor received a prescription for the medication they inquired about. This means that one in eight Americans (13%) has received a specific prescription in response to seeing a drug ad.

•Â After viewing specific prescription drug ads, about four in ten said they were very or somewhat likely to talk to their doctor about the drug they saw advertised (37%) and/or to talk to their doctor about the health condition mentioned in the ad (40%).

•Â When asked for a self-assessment of how much they learned from viewing a specific ad, most respondents (70%) said they had learned little or nothing more about the health condition, and a majority (59%) said they knew little or nothing more about the drug. However, when asked questions about medical information featured in ads for the drugs Lipitor, Nexium and Singulair, people who had just viewed a particular ad were in some cases much more likely than non-viewers to give correct answers.

•Â Forty-nine percent of people who had just seen an ad did recall that it recommended getting more information from a doctor or pharmacist, but 40% were not able to recall where else to go for more information.

•Â Many adults said that ads they had just seen did a "good" or "excellent" job of telling them about the condition the advertised medicine is designed to treat (84%), the medicine's potential benefits (72%) and who should take it (66%). Fewer, but still about half, said the same about potential side effects (52%) and directions for using the medicine (47%).

A potential trade-off

Critics of direct-to-consumer advertising say the ads drive up the cost of drugs, but the survey reveals that the ads may also provide consumers with information to help them become more aware of their medical conditions.

Said Christopher Molineaux, vice president of public affairs for the Washington-based Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, "The Kaiser survey adds to the growing body of evidence from the Food and Drug Administration and others that DTC advertising helps inform patients about their medical care while leaving the physician in control of treatment decisions. In fact, survey participants responded that physicians reacted in a variety of ways to their request for a particular medication, including: recommending that they make changes in behavior or lifestyle, recommending a different prescription drug, recommending no drug, recommending an over-the-counter drug, or recommending that the patient receive the drug requested."

Concluded Molineaux, "The bottom line is that direct-to-consumer advertising is good for patients and good for the public health." PR

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