History of Direct to Consumer Advertising of Prescription Drug Products in US

Direct to Consumer Advertising

According to a report by the United States General Accounting Office, “spending on direct-to-consumer advertising of prescription drugs has tripled in recent years,” (Collins et al. p. 4). Consequently, spending on prescription drugs has also risen. Although the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates the content of prescription drug advertisements under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA), many critics of direct-to-consumer (DTC) promotion of prescription drugs contend that the advertisements can be misleading or even dangerous. Spending on DTC drug ads can also cut into costs that could be channeled into research and development, which is another reason why many consumer groups express concern over the proliferation of DTC ads for pharmaceuticals. The FDA changed their stance somewhat regarding DTC ads for prescription drugs in 1999, which is why DTC ads for pharmaceuticals have become commonplace, most notably on television (Palumbo and Mullins 423).

However, DTC advertisements come in a wide range of media formats: magazine and newspaper print ads, consumer brochures, direct mail, Internet advertisements including e-mail SPAM, and radio broadcasts.

Additionally, pharmaceutical corporations send sales representatives to the offices of doctors to peddle their wares to practitioners and patients alike. In physician and hospital waiting rooms, potential consumers can leaf through a plethora of propaganda designed to attract new buyers. Before the FDA shifted its stance regarding DTC ads for prescription drugs, most promotional materials were only available to those who could prescribe medications.

DTC ads for prescription drugs seems relatively new because a moratorium on prescription drug DTC advertisements was lifted after the FDA conducted research regarding the effects of these ads on consumers. Studies showed that consumers responded favorably to such ads but tended to ignore the risks and potential side effects of drugs in favor of the potential benefits (Palumbo and Mullins 424).

The first DTC prescription drug advertisement hit American audiences in the early 1980s, when two pharmaceutical companies published print ads. Faced with an unexpected dilemma and a lack of research, the FDA set out to investigate the effects of.