Discovery Guides Areas


Direct-to-Consumer Advertising of Pharmaceuticals
(Released March 2008)

  by Amy Shaw  


Key Citations





DTC advertising has become a major marketing phenomenon in the American health care system. It has been a contentious subject among consumers, those in the medical community, and the pharmaceutical industry. The pharmaceutical companies assert that DTC advertising can help consumers become more informed about diseases and prescription drug choices. They also argue that these advertisements may make patients more likely to seek help and discuss their conditions with their doctors, thus getting the treatments they need. Furthermore, physician attitudes toward DTC advertising are changing, with more expressing positive views than in the past.

Patient advocacy groups have put a great deal of pressure on the FDA to speed the release of new drugs, some of which are found to not perform any better than older versions. The marketing of these new drugs has led to recalls of heavily advertised drugs, such as Vioxx, that were found to carry dangerous risks. PhRMA and some pharmaceutical companies, such as Bristol-Myers Squib, have reacted by announcing a voluntary moratorium on DTC advertising for new drugs.

In addition to issues regarding the advertising of new DTC drugs, critics argue that drug companies should more clearly indicate who may be at risk of the disease being treated (Frosch et al, 2007) and show fair balance in stating a drug's risks and benefits of a drug. They furthermore assert that drug companies should advise the consumers that other treatment options may be available.

The debate continues while DTC advertising grows as a marketing phenomenon in the American health care system.

© 2008, ProQuest LLC. All rights reserved.

List of Visuals


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Note: All webpages cited here have been downloaded in February of 2008