Consumer views on DTCA advertising.

Dijk, L. van, Vervloet, M., Friele, R.D. Consumer views on DTCA advertising. European Journal of Public Health: 2011, 21(suppl. 1), p. 184. Abstract. 4th European Public Health Conference: 'Public Health and Welfare - Welfare Development and Public Health' 9-12 november 2011, Copenhagen.
Background: In most Western countries, except for New Zealand and the USA, direct-to-consumer advertising of prescription drugs is prohibited. Currently, at European level, there is an ongoing discussion whether or not to allow pharmaceutical companies to inform consumers about prescription drugs. However, the distinction between non-promotional information and advertising is unclear. The objective of this presentation is to assess consumer views on advertisements for over-the-counter (OTC)-drugs in The Netherlands and to discuss these views in the light of 1) results of studies referring to consumers views on DTCA for prescription drugs and)the new proposals for patient information in Europe. Methods: A questionnaire was completed by 1,038 consumers participating in a national representative consumer panel (response: 74%). The questionnaire aimed at measuring consumers’ experiences with advertising of OTC-drugs, as well as their judgment on which information ought to be given in advertisements. In addition, we assessed the reliability of information in OTC-advertisements compared to other information sources for (new) drugs. A PubMed literature search was performed to assess consumers views on DTCA on prescription drugs. Results: Consumers rated truthful and adequate information as most important feature of advertisements, but they often experienced misleading information in advertising. They stated, for example, that advertisements often suggested that the drug is beneficial for everyone, while they doubted whether this is true. Only a small number of consumers found advertising to be useful, for example in informing them about a new OTCdrug on the market. The majority of consumers (79%) considered the information in advertisements as unreliable. These results are partly in line with those of US studies finding that consumers want advertisements for prescriptions drugs to be accurate and not misleading. Conclusions: Advertisements for OTC-drugs from pharmaceutical industries were assessed as unreliable, and the information given was far from complete according to Dutch consumers. Whether the pharmaceutical industry will be a good information source on prescription drugs remains questionable. Consumer information on medicines needs to meet high standards of objectivity, completeness and reliability. New EU regulations in this field should safeguard this. (aut. ref.)