Healthy Skepticism
Join us to help reduce harm from misleading health information.
Increase font size   Decrease font size   Print-friendly view   Print
Register Log in

Healthy Skepticism Library item: 32

Warning: This library includes all items relevant to health product marketing that we are aware of regardless of quality. Often we do not agree with all or part of the contents.


Publication type: Journal Article

Woloshin S, Schwartz LM, Tremmel J, Welch HG
Direct-to-consumer advertisements for prescription drugs: what are Americans being sold?
Lancet 2001; 358:1141-1146


BACKGROUND: 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. METHODS: 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. FINDINGS: 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. INTERPRETATION: Provision of complete information about the benefit of prescription drugs in advertisements would serve the interests of physicians and the public.

*content analysis United States DTCA direct-to-consumer advertising quality of information print advertisements safety & risk information EVALUATION OF PROMOTION: DIRECT-TO-CONSUMER ADVERTISING PROMOTIONAL STRATEGIES: INDUSTRY


Methodology note: It is unclear if the data was extracted by a single person; if so this could have introduced biases. The results of this study may not apply to broadcast advertisements.
ProCite field5: Content analysis


  Healthy Skepticism on RSS   Healthy Skepticism on Facebook   Healthy Skepticism on Twitter

Click to Register

(read more)

Click to Log in
for free access to more features of this website.

Forgot your username or password?

You are invited to
apply for membership
of Healthy Skepticism,
if you support our aims.

Pay a subscription

Support our work with a donation

Buy Healthy Skepticism T Shirts

If there is something you don't like, please tell us. If you like our work, please tell others.

Email a Friend