FDA survey: Physicians split on benefits of DTC ads

March 1, 2003

Pharmaceutical Representative

Most doctors view DTC advertisements as one of many factors that affect their practice and their interactions with patients, both positively and, in some respects, negatively.

According to a Food and Drug Administration survey of 500 physicians, most doctors view direct-to-consumer advertisements as one of many factors that affect their practice and their interactions with patients, both positively and, in some respects, negatively.

Highlights of the study

The study found that:


•Â Many physicians believe DTC advertising can play a positive role in their interactions with patients. For example, most agreed that because patients saw a DTC ad, they asked more thoughtful questions during the visit. Some thought the ad made their patients more aware of possible treatments.


•Â Many physicians also thought direct-to-consumer ads made patients more involved in their healthcare.


•Â Physicians also felt they had to provide additional information beyond what patients retained from the DTC advertising. About 75% of physicians believed that DTC advertising caused patients to think the drug worked better than it did.


•Â Eight percent felt very pressured to prescribe the specific brand-name drug when asked about it. Other physicians suggested alternative courses of action for a variety of reasons: A different drug was more appropriate, there were side effects the patient did not know about or a less expensive drug was available.


•Â According to the survey, one effect of DTC ads was to help educate patients about their health problems, and to provide greater awareness of treatments. The study demonstrated that when a patient asked about a drug, 88% of the time he or she had the condition that the drug treated. And 80% of physicians believed patients understood what condition the drug treated.


•Â Moreover, doctors believed that patients understood they needed to consult a healthcare professional about appropriate treatment: 82% of physicians believed patients understood "very well" or "somewhat" that only a doctor could decide if the drug was right for the patient. This is important, because only 40% of physicians believed that patients understood "very well" or "somewhat" the possible risks and negative effects of an advertised drug from the DTC ad alone.

The FDA said it will continue to scrutinize DTC ads closely to ensure that all essential information is communicated as clearly as possible, as outlined in the current policy. In addition, the FDA will continue its comprehensive evaluation of DTC advertising, as well as its impact on public health and the FDA's policies and guidance. PR

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