Physicians have positive view of direct-to-consumer advertising

January 1, 2002

Pharmaceutical Representative

The majority of primary care physicians find direct-to-consumer advertising to be beneficial to their practices.

The majority of primary care physicians find direct-to-consumer advertising to be beneficial to their practices, according to a recent survey conducted by New York-based research and consulting firms Advanced Analytics Inc. and Guideline Consulting.

"Recent physician efforts to ban DTC advertising at the American Medical Association convention in Chicago in June of this year do not reflect the feelings of the majority of primary care physicians," said Dr. Morris S. Whitcup, president of Advanced Analytics. "Physicians feel that these ads are informative and make their patients more knowledgeable about diseases and conditions. These ads increase patient awareness and lead some patients who would not otherwise seek medical help to consult with a physician."

Three types of ads

The survey not only asked about direct-to-consumer advertising overall, but also about three specific types of direct-to-consumer advertising: ads describing treatment for an ailment or condition (but no mention of a specific medication); ads citing both a specific medication and a condition; and "reminder ads" that only mention the name of a medication.

"Physicians are positive [about] DTC advertising overall and two of the three specific types of DTC advertising," said Nick Tortorello, president of Guideline.

The survey also found that:


•Â Fifty-five percent of those surveyed rated DTC advertising as beneficial, overall, to patients.


•Â Ads describing a condition (but no mention of a specific medication) were the most favorably received: 80% of primary care physicians indicated that these ads are beneficial to patients.


•Â Ads citing both a condition and a medication were also warmly received: 63% of physicians indicated that these ads were beneficial to patients.


•Â Reminder ads (which only mention the name of the medication) were seen by only a small minority of physicians (18%) as beneficial to patients.

Physicians surveyed who said that DTC advertising has negatively impacted their practice of medicine were primarily concerned about patient confusion and demands for the specific advertised medicines when there may be better alternatives available in the doctor's opinion.

Tortorello also noted that there is further concern about communicating a fair balance of risks versus benefits of medications advertised in DTC ads. For example, when asked about nonsedating, second-generation antihistamines, only 40% of physicians indicated that these ads fairly portrayed risks versus benefits.

Results of the survey were obtained during the last two weeks of July 2001 using a telephone sample of 350 general/family practitioners and internists. PR

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