Risk communication in prescription drug advertisements
Deshpande, Aparna D
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The “brief summary” in print prescription drug (DTC) ads is under scrutiny because of a general consensus that it does not adequately facilitate consumers’ understanding of drug risks and side effects. Recently, the FDA has recommended that drug marketers use more patient friendly brief summary formats in DTC ads. However, there is little empirical evidence regarding the comparative influence of different formats on consumers’ drug-related knowledge, and their perceptions and responses to DTC ads. This study involved a series of qualitative focus group interviews that elicited consumer opinions on design preferences for the brief summary in print DTC ads. Subsequently, we conducted a mall intercept survey with 307 consumers, using a monadic experimental design, to assess the comparative effectiveness of the different formats in influencing outcomes related to consumer information processing. The results reported here show that consumers’ knowledge of drug risks and side effects was higher when a newer format was used vs. the existing fine-print format. Overall, information processing improved when a brief summary was present, underscoring the necessity of this information. Regardless of whether new or existing brief summary formats were used, consumers tended to learn the benefits of a drug better than its risks. Greater knowledge of the risks and side effects led to favorable brand attitudes and did not increase the perceived risk associated with the product. Clearly, marketers should not be hesitant to incorporate risk information in DTC ads for fear of discouraging trial and adoption. Newer brief summary formats should be used since they tend to facilitate effective information processing more than the existing fine print format.