Academic journal article Competition Forum

Attitudes toward Pharmaceutical Direct-to-Consumer Advertising: The Role of Culture

Academic journal article Competition Forum

Attitudes toward Pharmaceutical Direct-to-Consumer Advertising: The Role of Culture

Article excerpt


In this study we examined the attitudes and behaviors of Hispanic consumers toward pharmaceutical direct-to-consumer advertising. The main motivations were to understand not only specific behaviors and attitudes but also to investigate if these behaviors are impacted by culture. A sample of 200 consumers filled out the questionnaire. Findings indicate that culture and language use influence conversations with doctors about the drug and the disease. Respondents also reported that DTC advertising motivates them to take better care of their health. The concerns respondents raise are to do with DTC promotions not highlighting the risks associated with the drug. Implications for advertising and public policy are discussed.

Keywords: Consumer attitudes, Culture, Direct-to-consumer advertising, Hispanic, Consumer behavior


The pharmaceutical industry is a dominant element in the economic environment of the US. In 2007, it was worth $300 billion and is projected to reach between $230-250 billion in 2015. (IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics). Expenditures on advertising to consumers in 2008 were $4.7 billion, a fourth of all spending on pharmaceutical promotion activities (Congressional Budget Office Brief, 2009). Expenditures on prescription drugs have been increasing and between 1995 and 2007 they have increased by 274%. The growth in prescription drug expenditures has coincided with the growth in pharmaceutical promotion which increased from $11.4 billion in 1996 to $29.9 billion in 2005 (Donohue et al. 2007). Direct to consumer advertising (DTCA) has experienced growth especially after 1997, when Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued relaxed guidelines for direct-to-consumer (DTC) pharmaceutical marketing and in response, pharmaceutical industry spending on DTCA grew from $791 million in 1999 to $4.8 billion is 2006. Research on pharmaceutical advertising is therefore important as it influences consumption of prescription drugs which has witnesses an impressive growth.

Investments made on advertising to consumers have a good return. Research shows that for every $1 spent on advertising results in an increase in retail sales of $4.20. Advertising also seems to have an influence on patients and or physicians since new drugs with DTCA are nine times more likely to be prescribed those new drugs without DTCA. The fact that the US and New Zealand are the only two countries in the developed world which allow DTCA illustrates the controversy around this type of advertising (Hoek & Gendall, 2002).


There is evidence that Hispanic consumers have low satisfaction with the consumption of healthcare; from access to health care, being insured, to having satisfactory access and communication with health care providers. A study by Porter (2011) found that DTCA does not impact all groups in the population equally. In general minorities, particularly Hispanics are less aware of DTC promotions. Low income and low literacy also act as impediments to receive the benefits of DTC. Porter (2011) found that low income consumers are susceptible to brand name drugs and low literacy is an inhibitor to recall of DTCA. We are interested to know if Hispanic consumers have an opportunity to view DTC ads, and do they pay attention to them. This research question is important because in as much as DTC ads do deliver for pharmaceutical companies and can cause some problems for physicians, at a general level research shows that DTC ads do have the potential to educate, inform and give patients some confidence in their communication with health care providers. Findings from this research will help us understand attitudes and behaviors of Hispanic consumers toward DTCA and could inform social marketing and public policy.

According to the Kaiser Public Opinion Spotlight report (, more than half of all Americans take prescription drugs. …

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