The Effects of Involvement and Ad Type on Attitudes toward Direct-to-Consumer Advertising of Prescription Drugs

By Limbu, Yam; Torres, Ivonne M. | Journal of Health and Human Services Administration, Summer 2009 | Go to article overview

The Effects of Involvement and Ad Type on Attitudes toward Direct-to-Consumer Advertising of Prescription Drugs


Limbu, Yam, Torres, Ivonne M., Journal of Health and Human Services Administration


ADVERTISING OF PRESCRIPTION DRUGS

In the United States, the FDA loosened restrictions on Direct-to-Consumer advertising of prescription drugs in 1997. Only two countries i.e., the US and New Zealand allow Direct-to-Consumer Advertising (DTCA) of prescription drugs (Finlayson & Mullner, 2005). Pharmaceutical companies were some of America's most profitable corporations from 1995-2005 (Fortune, 2005). In 2004, they ranked third with profits of 16%, compared to 5% for all Fortune 500 firms. They ranked fifth most profitable companies in 2005 (Fortune, 2006). According to Relman and Angell (2002), more than one third of the US drug industry's workforce is employed in marketing including more than 88,000 sales representatives who are paid more than 7 billion per year. A research report by the Kaiser Family Foundation (2004) found that spending in the U.S. for prescription drugs was $162.4 billion in 2002 and that this number had increased to $179.2 billion in 2003. With the rapid growth of US pharmaceutical companies, advertising expenditure of prescription drugs is increasing rapidly each year, it was $2.47 billion in 2000 (IMS Health, 2000) and reached $4.2 billion in 2005 (IMS Health, 2006). A report by the Kaiser Family Foundation (2003) shows that each additional dollar spent by the drug industry on DTC advertising provides an additional $4.20 in pharmaceutical sales. In this report researchers also conclude that 13% of Americans have gotten a specific prescription in response to seeing a drug advertisement.

Total promotional spending on DTC advertising in 1999 was $1.8 billion, out of which 37% was for print ads (NIHCM Foundation, 2000). Although DTC advertising on TV overrides that on print media, Zoeller (1999) concludes that people prefer to read medical information in magazines. West (1999) found that over half of the respondents preferred print advertisements of prescription drugs because they could refer back and look through them carefully.

With the rapid growth of pharmaceutical marketing, several concerns have been raised. The sale and marketing of prescription drugs should not be governed solely by profit motives and market share incentives. The pharmaceutical industry needs to be cognizant of a duty towards their clients. More prominently, there are growing arguments among various individuals and institutions whether advertising of prescription drugs should be banned. However, little is known about the consumers' attitudes toward DTC advertising (Calfee, 2002; Williams & Hensel, 1995). The major purpose of this research is to examine consumers' responses to DTC advertising including attitudes toward DTC prescription drug brand and advertising, consumers' willingness to ask their doctors, and consumers' perceptions of prescription drug price. The healthcare implications of this research will help us understand why pharmaceutical companies should not only care about profitability but also be aware of the impact they have on society. They have to realize that their marketing efforts influence the way people make health-related decisions. The pharmaceutical industry needs to be aware of their obligation to their customers. If we know more about how marketing in general, and advertising in particular, influence consumers' healthcare perceptions and decisions, we can better understand the current healthcare situation.

REVIEW OF LITERATURE

Intent to Ask a Doctor

According to the informational processing model (McGuire, 1978), the purpose of the advertising campaign is to influence purchase behavior. However, pharmaceutical companies claim that DTC advertising is mainly aimed at informing consumers about a drug and encouraging them to ask their doctors rather than influencing purchase behavior. Holmer (1999) argues that DTC advertising can help consumers and improve public health by encouraging them to consult their physicians. Huh and Becker 2005 found that especially older and less educated consumers benefit from prescription drug advertising since they are more likely to be ready to communicate with their doctors. …

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