Direct-to-Consumer Advertising Informative, Spurs Conversation Between Doctor and Patient

The American Enterprise Institute held a conference yesterday to highlight findings of new polling data on public attitudes toward direct-to-consumer advertising of prescription drugs and to discuss the experience of DTC advertising in New Zealand. The first panel included Ed Slaughter of Prevention Magazine and Robert Leitman of Harris Interactive, followed by the second panel of Glen Wiggs with the New Zealand Advertising Standards Authority and Janet Hoek of Massey University. Jack Calfee of AEI moderated both panels.

Prevention Magazine conducts an annual survey on the effects of DTC advertising on consumers and consumer behavior. Ed Slaughter presented the most recent results from December of 2002. From a random telephone survey of 1,350 respondents in the U.S., Prevention found:



  • 98% are aware DTC advertising exists


  • 85% have seen a DTC ad for a prescription drug


  • 84% say DTC ads inform them of new treatments


  • 83% say DTC ads make them want to find out more about the condition the medicine treats


  • 19% go to a secondary source to find out more about the prescription drug, often for someone else


  • 33% say they have went to the doctor because of seeing a DTC ad


  • 50% say DTC ads provide them information with which to talk to their doctors


  • 64% think DTC advertising is done responsibly by the industry

Slaughter said that in today?s emerging ?self-care environment? consumers want to be more involved in their health care decisions, and DTC advertising provides them information with which to fulfill this need.

Robert Leitman, president of health and public policy at Harris Interactive, presented polling data that confirms and expands upon the Prevention data. The survey by Leitman and others conducted in 2001 and 2002 of 3,000 adult consumers in the U.S. found:



  • 86% have heard or saw a DTC advertisement for a prescription drug


  • 35% report having had a discussion with a doctor as a result


  • 36% of those who had discussions with their doctor report discussing a medical condition they had not discussed before


  • 25% of these discussions resulted in a new diagnosis


  • 43% of new diagnoses were considered ?high priority? conditions by the IOM/AHRQ criteria, including high cholesterol and hypertension.

Glen Wiggs and Janet Hoek described the self-regulatory system of DTC advertising in New Zealand. In New Zealand, companies must vet their DTC ads with an independent non-governmental group called the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) before the ad is run. The ASA protects consumers by operating by a Code for Therapeutic Advertising, which embraces the principles of medical responsibility, social responsibility, non-offensiveness, and good taste. Because the ads are approved by the ASA instead of a government agency, the process takes about six weeks instead of six to twelve months. Disputes and complaints are processed quickly and fairly by another independent agency. Wiggs said the self-regulatory system works so well because of the lack of government involvement and strong consumer focus.


Liberty vs. Security

The Cato Institute also held a forum yesterday concerning the Model State Emergency Health Powers Act and whether it is an affront to liberty and freedom. The model legislation was created to facilitate systematic planning for public health emergencies by coordinating a variety of services upon the declaration of a public health emergency by a state?s governor. But some believe the model legislation is an affront to civil liberties and the protection of private property.

Lawrence Gostin, director of the Center for Law and the Public?s Health, which drafted the model legislation at the behest of the CDC, said the model law tries to strike the right balance between liberty and security. According to Gostin, 22 states have now passed the Model State Emergency Health Powers Act, or some version of it. While acknowledging that the model legislation would not do anything for undeclared emergencies such as the current SARS outbreak, Gostin said it is a great improvement over current public health laws that do not provide effective powers, are old and constitutionally suspect, or are inconsistent in and among states.

George Annas of the Boston University School of Public Health was somewhat critical of the model law, arguing that it puts too much power in the hands of public health officials instead of doctors, and that defense against bioterrorism must be a national, not state function. ?To trust our government, we need to know it is protecting our civil liberties?Laws passed since September 11th on security treat American citizens as the enemy.?

Jonathan Turley of the George Washington University Law School was highly critical of the model legislation. Turley argued that public health powers should remain with the states, but with the people, not the governor or public health officers. Turley was most concerned about the discretionary authority of governors to declare emergencies and provisions allowing the taking of property by the state in such emergency situations. According to Turley, there are not proper checks on the power of the governor because state legislatures are not well equipped to step in to overturn the governor?s decision. ?Great mistakes are made when acting in fear,? said Turley.

–Joe Moser
Galen Institute

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The American Enterprise Institute held a conference yesterday to highlight findings of new polling data on public attitudes toward direct-to-consumer advertising of prescription drugs and to discuss the experience of DTC advertising in New Zealand. The first panel included Ed Slaughter of Prevention Magazine and Robert Leitman of Harris Interactive, followed by the second panel of Glen Wiggs with the New Zealand Advertising Standards Authority and Janet Hoek of Massey University. Jack Calfee of AEI moderated both panels.

Prevention Magazine conducts an annual survey on the effects of DTC advertising on consumers and consumer behavior. Ed Slaughter presented the most recent results from December of 2002. From a random telephone survey of 1,350 respondents in the U.S., Prevention found:



  • 98% are aware DTC advertising exists


  • 85% have seen a DTC ad for a prescription drug


  • 84% say DTC ads inform them of new treatments


  • 83% say DTC ads make them want to find out more about the condition the medicine treats


  • 19% go to a secondary source to find out more about the prescription drug, often for someone else


  • 33% say they have went to the doctor because of seeing a DTC ad


  • 50% say DTC ads provide them information with which to talk to their doctors


  • 64% think DTC advertising is done responsibly by the industry

Slaughter said that in today?s emerging ?self-care environment? consumers want to be more involved in their health care decisions, and DTC advertising provides them information with which to fulfill this need.

Robert Leitman, president of health and public policy at Harris Interactive, presented polling data that confirms and expands upon the Prevention data. The survey by Leitman and others conducted in 2001 and 2002 of 3,000 adult consumers in the U.S. found:



  • 86% have heard or saw a DTC advertisement for a prescription drug


  • 35% report having had a discussion with a doctor as a result


  • 36% of those who had discussions with their doctor report discussing a medical condition they had not discussed before


  • 25% of these discussions resulted in a new diagnosis


  • 43% of new diagnoses were considered ?high priority? conditions by the IOM/AHRQ criteria, including high cholesterol and hypertension.

Glen Wiggs and Janet Hoek described the self-regulatory system of DTC advertising in New Zealand. In New Zealand, companies must vet their DTC ads with an independent non-governmental group called the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) before the ad is run. The ASA protects consumers by operating by a Code for Therapeutic Advertising, which embraces the principles of medical responsibility, social responsibility, non-offensiveness, and good taste. Because the ads are approved by the ASA instead of a government agency, the process takes about six weeks instead of six to twelve months. Disputes and complaints are processed quickly and fairly by another independent agency. Wiggs said the self-regulatory system works so well because of the lack of government involvement and strong consumer focus.


Liberty vs. Security

The Cato Institute also held a forum yesterday concerning the Model State Emergency Health Powers Act and whether it is an affront to liberty and freedom. The model legislation was created to facilitate systematic planning for public health emergencies by coordinating a variety of services upon the declaration of a public health emergency by a state?s governor. But some believe the model legislation is an affront to civil liberties and the protection of private property.

Lawrence Gostin, director of the Center for Law and the Public?s Health, which drafted the model legislation at the behest of the CDC, said the model law tries to strike the right balance between liberty and security. According to Gostin, 22 states have now passed the Model State Emergency Health Powers Act, or some version of it. While acknowledging that the model legislation would not do anything for undeclared emergencies such as the current SARS outbreak, Gostin said it is a great improvement over current public health laws that do not provide effective powers, are old and constitutionally suspect, or are inconsistent in and among states.

George Annas of the Boston University School of Public Health was somewhat critical of the model law, arguing that it puts too much power in the hands of public health officials instead of doctors, and that defense against bioterrorism must be a national, not state function. ?To trust our government, we need to know it is protecting our civil liberties?Laws passed since September 11th on security treat American citizens as the enemy.?

Jonathan Turley of the George Washington University Law School was highly critical of the model legislation. Turley argued that public health powers should remain with the states, but with the people, not the governor or public health officers. Turley was most concerned about the discretionary authority of governors to declare emergencies and provisions allowing the taking of property by the state in such emergency situations. According to Turley, there are not proper checks on the power of the governor because state legislatures are not well equipped to step in to overturn the governor?s decision. ?Great mistakes are made when acting in fear,? said Turley.

–Joe Moser
Galen Institute

SHARE THIS ARTICLE

About the author