Athens, Ga. Prescription drug ads on television first hit the airwaves just over a decade ago, but a new University of Georgia study finds that most of them still do not present a fair balance of information, especially when it comes to the risk of side effects.
A team led by Wendy Macias, associate professor in the UGA Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, analyzed a weeks worth of direct-to-consumer ads on broadcast and cable television. The found that the average 60-second ad contained less than 8 seconds (13 percent of total ad time) of side effect disclaimers, while the average 30-second ad has less than 4.4 seconds (15 percent of total ad time) of disclaimers. Most of the 15-second ads studied devoted no time at all to disclaimers.
These ads clearly dont devote enough time to information about risk, said Macias, whose results appear in the November/December issue of the journal Health Communication. Adding to the problem is that the information is often presented in a way that people arent likely to comprehend or even pay attention to.
Macias and her team, which includes Kartik Pashupati at Southern Methodist University and Liza Lewis at The University of Texas at Austin, found that almost all of the ads disclosed side effects solely in a voice-over portion of the ad. Only 2.2 percent of ads had the disclosure in voice-over as well as in text form.
The 1997 FDA guidelines that allowed drug companies to greatly expand the scope of their direct-to-consumer advertising required the companies to present a fair balance between information about effectiveness and information about risk.
Fair balance is not defined by the FDA, so Macias created a four-tiered classification: 1.) Lawbreakers are ads that dont mention side effects at all; 2.) bare minimums are those that list side effects but spend less than 10 percent of time on risk information; 3.) the main pack includes ads that spend more than 10 pe
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University of Georgia