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Study to examine direct-to-consumer drug ads on TV
Date:9/14/2011

Do pharmaceutical ads educate patients and improve health -- or merely spur drug sales?

Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago's Institute for Health Research and Policy will conduct the first comprehensive study of televised drug commercials using Nielsen Media Research and health care utilization data.

The research is funded by a $3 million, four-year grant from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

The U.S. is the only country that allows televised ads for prescription drugs. Direct-to-consumer drug commercials are the fourth most common category of television advertising.

"The increase in the amount of advertising has coincided with huge increases in health care costs," said Sherry Emery, principal investigator of the project at UIC, who notes that advertising has not likely caused the entire rise in health care costs.

"On the one hand, the pharmaceutical industry claims that these advertisements provide a public service by educating consumers and giving people information to take to their doctors that might improve their health and ultimately result in lower health care costs," Emery said. "But there are a lot of economists who would suggest that you don't advertise a product unless you expect to make money from it -- and these ads might be driving excess demand."

Previous research has not demonstrated either effect conclusively, said Emery, a senior research scientist at the UIC institute, perhaps because such studies have focused on single categories of drugs. Several studies have examined the effect of direct-to-consumer advertising on consumers' behavior and health outcomes, but most have used aggregate spending rather than more refined measures of ad exposure.

"It seems reasonable that an advertisement for a cholesterol medication that treats a non-symptomatic condition might be different than an advertisement for an asthma medication, where if you don't adhere to th
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Contact: Sherri McGinnis McGinnis
smcginn@uic.edu
312-996-8277
University of Illinois at Chicago
Source:Eurekalert

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