DTC Advertising

OPDP DTC Research Studies Await Peer Review, Are Poised for Publication

Sept. 16, 2019 – Five research studies conducted by the FDA’s Office of Prescription Drug Promotion (OPDP) – four of which examine aspects of direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertising – are complete and awaiting peer review and publication, according to OPDP’s Website.

“Taken together, the OPDP studies now nearing release will make an important contribution to the body of information about DTC and how best to design it for recall and comprehension,” noted Coalition for Healthcare Communication Executive Director Jon Bigelow. “They will provide useful information on the impact of new trends in how messages are accessed (such as viewership on tablets, and use of animation and superimposed text) and on the targeting of messages to adolescents, as well as providing further data about patient attitudes toward DTC.”

The completed research studies cover the topics described below.

Animation in DTC Promotion: OPDP examined the effects of different types of animation – live action, full animation and rotoscoping (a process of animating live action scenes) – in addition to the particular character that is the focus of the animation (sufferer, disease or benefit). OPDP will provide information on whether animation influences the recall and perception of risk and benefit information in DTC ads.

Experimental Study of DTC Advertising Directed at Adolescents: In this study, OPDP assessed adolescents’ perceptions following exposure to DTC prescription drug advertising that varies in benefit and risk onset and risk severity. OPDP compared adolescents’ perceptions with the perceptions of their young adult counterparts. This study also included a sample of parents matched to their children to explore differences and similarities in perceptions of these matched pairs. Results showed that adolescents were able to understand the risk and benefit information on the Websites they viewed. However, OPDP found that adolescents tend to both overestimate and underestimate risks.

General Population Survey on Prescription Drug Promotion: The purpose of this research project is to conduct a follow-up study to the FDA’s 1999 and 2002 patient surveys on attitudes toward DTC promotion of prescription drugs and the impact of such promotion on the doctor-patient relationship.

Risk and Benefit Perception Scale Development: OPDP’s goal for this study is to develop and validate risk and benefit perception scales and to explore various methods for measuring recall and comprehension that can be used for OPDP research moving forward. This study is a multi-stage project.

Superimposed Text in DTC Promotion: The goal of this OPDP study is to attempt to apply and extend earlier findings on superimposed text (super) to DTC promotion, which is particularly important because new technologies have emerged since the publication of previous studies. OPDP examines the differences between text viewed on television screens and tablets, and looks at the contrast between the super text and the background on which it is located to determine whether that has a measurable effect on the recall of the information in the super and the overall message of the ad.

At the Coalition for Healthcare Communication Rising Leaders Conference on Healthcare Policy held in May, Kathryn Aikin, Ph.D., OPDP senior social science analyst and research team lead, told attendees that OPDP is “specifically interested in topics involving risk presentation because these topics have the potential to negatively affect public health.”

Aikin noted that OPDP also is concerned about the presentation of benefit. “We don’t want consumers to be misled by potentially false hopes, she said. “At the end of the day, we want consumers to have accurate and truthful information about the efficacy and risks of products to help them make the best decisions.”