, Volume 105, Issue 4, pp 447-460
Date: 23 Jul 2011

Role of Socioeconomic Status on Consumers’ Attitudes Towards DTCA of Prescription Medicines in Australia

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Abstract

The Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, operating in Australia under the National Health Act 1953, provides citizens equal access to subsidised pharmaceuticals. With ever-increasing costs of medicines and global financial pressure on all commodities, the sustainability of the PBS is of crucial importance on many social and political fronts. Direct-to-consumer advertising (DTCA) of prescription medicines is fast expanding, as pharmaceutical companies recognise and reinforce marketing potentials not only in healthcare professionals but also in consumers. DTCA is currently prohibited in Australia, but pharmaceutical companies continuously lobby for the ban to be lifted. There is evidence that such marketing strategies influence consumer behaviour and concerns have been raised about whether DTCA could affect government expenditure on the PBS in Australia. This pharmacy-based study explored Australian consumer attitudes towards DTCA and whether consumer attitudes regarding DTCA differ based on socioeconomic status, measured in terms of income and education. Consumers from different socioeconomic areas in Sydney were asked to respond to a survey about an advertisement created specifically for the promotion of a mock prescription medicine. Their views about the intent, value and reliability of the advertisement were explored. The study found that consumers of lower socioeconomic status were more likely to perceive DTCA as a source of valuable and reliable medical information, and that they were more likely to request an advertised medication from their physician. If DTCA of prescription medicines was to be introduced in Australia, an increase in government expenditure on the PBS would be anticipated. Findings of this study also expose a deficit in respect for patients’ right to autonomy and informed consent which should be based on evidence-based, unbiased, information rather than advertisements.