Skip to Main Content

Sometimes a lot of information is not a good thing.

The litany of side effects recited in TV drug ads are designed to alert you to all of the potential risks, big and small. But it turns out these well-intended laundry lists, which are required by regulators, actually have the opposite effect — consumers pay less attention to the most serious side effects and, consequently, focus on the benefits of the drug, according to a new study.

Unlock this article by subscribing to STAT+ and enjoy your first 30 days free!

  • If you are aging and feeling tired, or achy, or stiff; and you see attractive peers (healthy actors) frolicking on the back 9 while being told your arthritis will disappear, or your heart start working like a teen, your cancer will abate, or whatever ails you; you would want some of that.

    They think: “I can play golf again with my wife.” Or “I might get another 3-5 years with my grandchildren playing on the beach like old times.” Meanwhile, in the background, a voice in perfunctory tone recites in rapid-fire a litany of hideous complications that would put anybody in denial, especially if they are thinking that the wishful benefits reflected in the video trump any side effects. Thus, Pharma treads on proven cognitive and social psychology; a) information overload, and b) fantasy to distract you from paying attention.

    It would be quite different if the voice said: “Half of the people on this drug hope to live another 6 months. The other half don’t need it but hope it will invigorate them anyway.”

Comments are closed.