Amid the ongoing debate over the wisdom of pharmaceutical advertising, a new analysis suggests that doctors agree more often than not to write prescriptions for patients who have seen drug ads. At the same time, however, the analysis also found that only 1 in 10 consumers were moved by such advertising to ask a doctor for a prescription.
The results present a slightly conflicting picture of the extent to which so-called direct-to-consumer advertising poses an unhealthy dilemma, according to the authors of the analysis, published Tuesday in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. While the pharmaceutical industry insists its ads educate consumers, doctors argue some ads too often encourage patients to seek medicines unnecessarily.
“I think the data suggests that, if you take a deep dive, we see a mixed bag,” said Sara Becker, an assistant professor of behavioral and social sciences at Brown University, who coauthored the analysis. “Across the board, consumer requests (for prescriptions in response to drug ads) are not happening all that often. But when it does, it raises prescribing volumes.”
Re: Pharm Ads Results
“a new analysis suggests that doctors agree more often than not to write prescriptions for patients who have seen drug ads. At the same time, however, the analysis also found that only 1 in 10 consumers were moved by such advertising to ask a doctor for a prescription.”
Very misleading! If “consumers” as used, refers to all consumers of the ads (those who watch them) there is one result, but if it refers to those who watched the ads AND HAD THE TARGETED MALADY, then there is BIG difference.
I see no reason to be concerned if the former is true, and a lot to be concerned with if the latter hold.
IMHO pharm ads should be banned!!!!
Thanks for the note and that’s a fair point. As far as I can tell, it doesn’t seem apparent whether any of those folks had one of the maladies that were the subject of ads, although the one trial that hired actors did attempt to cover that base. But I’ve asked the lead author to address this more specifically.
Thanks for posting. I agree with you completely the statistic in the first paragraph (and especially the term “consumer”) is lacking important context. The four studies in our review found that less than 10% of patients were requesting advertised medications, but most of the studies did not address what percent of patients actually NEEDED medication. Without that information, we can’t conclude whether the 10% number is too high, too low, or just right. Only one study addressed this issue directly – a clever randomized controlled trial by Kravitz and colleagues had “standardized patients” (or actors) present to doctors’ offices and make requests for antidepressants they had seen advertised. The standardized patients had two different levels of depression severity – depression serious enough to merit a prescription (major depression) or depression not serious enough to merit a prescription (an adjustment disorder with depressed mood). The study found that ALL of the actors who asked for medication were more likely to leave with prescriptions than the actors who didn’t make a request. For those actors with more severe depression, the authors found that the requests for medication resulted in better adherence to treatment guidelines (meaning patients that needed treatment were more likely to get it). On the other hand, for those actors with an adjustment disorder, the authors found that the requests for medication resulted in over prescribing (meaning patients that didn’t need a prescription were more likely to get one). This study in particular supports the title of Ed’s piece that the effects of advertising are a “mixed bag.”
Thanks for raising this important point!
Thanks, Sara, for explaining this. The story was updated to note that point.
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