July 25, 2017 – A large majority of Americans recognize the value of the information provided in direct-to-consumer (DTC) ads and state that the ads promote adherence and help patients remember to visit their doctor, according to a recent survey of 1,500 people sponsored by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) and conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International.
The objective of the survey was to learn more about consumers’ awareness of and opinions regarding DTC ads for prescription drugs. The survey’s key findings are:
- Viewership of DTC ads is widespread and recall is high
- Few consumers specifically request a medicine they saw advertised and few receive that medicine
- DTC ads often prompt conversations about alternatives such as generics or lifestyle changes
- DTC ads prompt other behaviors, such as information seeking and medicine adherence
- DTC ads are viewed favorably by many, particularly when informational aspects are emphasized
“The study confirms much of what we already knew or suspected about DTC,” said Coalition for Healthcare Communication Executive Director John Kamp. “Most importantly, the research dispels some of the myths DTC critics often assert, including that patients often demand specific advertised products and their doctors reflexively prescribe them. Instead, patients primarily use the ads as an information source and support for better patient/doctor conversations.”
Although seven in 10 of the survey participants suffer from at least one chronic condition, 87 percent of those surveyed rated their health in the good/very good/excellent range. Nearly two-thirds of those surveyed reported they are taking at least one prescription medicine. Fully 86 percent of all participants say they have seen or heard ads for specific prescription medicines, and what they recall most from ads includes: (1) a reminder to talk with their doctor (92 percent); (2) information on potential side effects (92 percent); and (3) information on potential benefits (88 percent).
It is worth noting that only 38 percent of respondents actually were prompted by the ad to talk to their physicians about an advertised medicine; of those who talked with a physician as a result of a DTC ad, 67 percent just talked with their doctor – only 33 percent requested the specific drug in the ad. Those respondents who did receive a prescription as a result of those conversations received the advertised drug only 42 percent of the time and received a prescription for a different drug 35 percent of the time.
No prescription was written for 23 percent of those who discussed the ad with their doctor. In fact, nearly nine in 10 of those surveyed have discussed alternatives to advertised prescription drugs, such as generic alternatives (50 percent), a different prescription medicine (40 percent) or non-prescription alternatives, such as over-the-counter medicines (32 percent). Lifestyle changes also were discussed for 46 percent of those consulting their healthcare professional. Diagnostic testing was performed for 27 percent of these respondents and 33 percent received a sample of the prescription medication.
Additionally, as a result of seeing the DTC ad, 62 percent of respondents looked for information about: a condition the advertised medicine treats (33 percent); a prescription medicine they were taking (29 percent); or a prescription medicine a friend or family member was taking (24 percent).
“It’s pretty clear that patients who have viewed ads most often ask doctors about the condition and possible treatments, and are not demanding a specific advertised drug,” Kamp said. “Furthermore, for patients already on a treatment regime, ads offer powerful reminders to adhere to the regime and to continue useful dialogue with their doctors.”
Seeing the DTC ads reminded many of those surveyed to take specific action to improve their health. These actions include: scheduling an appointment with a physician (28 percent), getting a preventative vaccine or flu shot (27 percent), reminding them to take their prescription medicine (23 percent) and reminding them to get their prescription refilled (21 percent). Four in 10 of those surveyed said they recalled disease awareness ads.
When asked to agree or disagree with statements about DTC ads’ educational value, 88 percent of respondents said they strongly agree/somewhat agree that these ads tell people about new treatments and 81 percent said their strongly agree/somewhat agree that the ads alert people to symptoms that are related to a medical condition they may have. More than three-quarters of respondents said DTC ads allow people to be more involved with their healthcare (79 percent) and educate people about diseases and conditions (76 percent).