Content Analysis of False and Misleading Claims in Television Advertising for Prescription and Nonprescription Drugs
- 2.2k Downloads
False and misleading advertising for drugs can harm consumers and the healthcare system, and previous research has demonstrated that physician-targeted drug advertisements may be misleading. However, there is a dearth of research comparing consumer-targeted drug advertising to evidence to evaluate whether misleading or false information is being presented in these ads.
To compare claims in consumer-targeted television drug advertising to evidence, in order to evaluate the frequency of false or misleading television drug advertising targeted to consumers.
A content analysis of a cross-section of television advertisements for prescription and nonprescription drugs aired from 2008 through 2010. We analyzed commercial segments containing prescription and nonprescription drug advertisements randomly selected from the Vanderbilt Television News Archive, a census of national news broadcasts.
For each advertisement, the most-emphasized claim in each ad was identified based on claim iteration, mode of communication, duration and placement. This claim was then compared to evidence by trained coders, and categorized as being objectively true, potentially misleading, or false. Potentially misleading claims omitted important information, exaggerated information, made lifestyle associations, or expressed opinions. False claims were factually false or unsubstantiated.
Of the most emphasized claims in prescription (n = 84) and nonprescription (n = 84) drug advertisements, 33 % were objectively true, 57 % were potentially misleading and 10 % were false. In prescription drug ads, there were more objectively true claims (43 %) and fewer false claims (2 %) than in nonprescription drug ads (23 % objectively true, 7 % false). There were similar numbers of potentially misleading claims in prescription (55 %) and nonprescription (61 %) drug ads.
Potentially misleading claims are prevalent throughout consumer-targeted prescription and nonprescription drug advertising on television. These results are in conflict with proponents who argue the social value of drug advertising is found in informing consumers about drugs.
KEY WORDSdirect-to-consumer advertising over-the-counter drug advertising over-the-counter drug false or misleading advertising content analysis
Mike Endries, Scott Falk and Matt Mattila, University of Wisconsin School of Pharmacy, assisted in developing the coding method, coding ads, and resolving coding discrepancies. They were paid an hourly wage for their work. We thank Drs. Betty Chewning, Robert Drechsel, Albert Gunther, and Henry Young for their valuable input on the design and analysis of this research. Dr. Faerber was supported by the Joseph P. Wiederholt Distinguished Graduate Fellowship from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and the American Foundation for Pharmaceutical Education Postdoctoral Fellowship, http://www.afpenet.org. This research study was supported by a dissertation grant from The Sonderegger Research Center, http://www.pharmacy.wisc.edu/src. No funding bodies had any role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. This work was presented, in part, at the Midwest Social and Administrative Sciences in Pharmacy Conference in August 2012.
Conflict of Interest
Dr. Faerber declares she has no conflict of interest. Dr. Kreling reports that he has served as a consultant for local law firms in four legal cases regarding projecting future drug costs.
- 11.Aikin KJ, Swasy JL, Braman AC. Patient and physician attitudes and behaviors associated with direct-to-consumer promotion of prescription drugs. Food and Drug Administration. 2004:1–112. Available at: http://www.fda.gov/downloads/Drugs/ScienceResearch/ResearchAreas/DrugMarketingAdvertisingandCommunicationsResearch/UCM152860.pdf. Accessed July 10, 2013.
- 19.Avery RJ, Eisenberg M, Simon KI. Fair balance in direct-to-consumer antidepressant print and television advertising, 1995–2007. J Health Commun. 2011:1–28. doi: 10.1080/10810730.2011.585698.
- 31.Drug Advertising: is this good medicine? Consumer Reports. 1996;61(6):62–63.Google Scholar
- 33.The Federal Trade Commission. FTC Policy Statement on Deception. Federal Trade Commission Reporter 103. 1984;110:174–174.Google Scholar
- 34.The Federal Trade Commission, The Food and Drug Administration. Memorandum of Understanding Between the Federal Trade Commission and the Food and Drug Administration. The Food and Drug Administration. 2012:1–3. Available at: http://www.fda.gov/AboutFDA/PartnershipsCollaborations/MemorandaofUnderstandingMOUs/DomesticMOUs/ucm115791.htm. Accessed July 12, 2013.
- 35.Prescription Drug Advertising. Code of Federal Regulations. Chapter 21. Section 202.1(e):(6–7).Google Scholar
- 36.The Food and Drug Administration, Division of Drug Marketing Advertising and Communication. Brief summary: disclosing risk information in consumer-directed print advertisements. Food and Drug Administration. 2004. Available at: http://www.fda.gov/downloads/Drugs/GuidanceComplianceRegulatoryInformation/Guidances/UCM069984.pdf. Accessed July 12, 2013.
- 37.The Food and Drug Administration, Division of Drug Marketing Advertising and Communication. Presenting risk information in prescription drug and medical device promotion. Food and Drug Administration. 2009. Available at: http://www.fda.gov/downloads/Drugs/GuidanceComplianceRegulatoryInformation/Guidances/UCM155480.pdf. Accessed July 12, 2013.
- 38.The Food and Drug Administration, Division of Drug Marketing Advertising and Communication. Consumer-directed broadcast advertisements. Food and Drug Administration. 1999:1–6. Available at: http://www.fda.gov/downloads/Drugs/GuidanceComplianceRegulatoryInformation/Guidances/ucm070065.pdf. Accessed July 12, 2013.
- 40.Benson EB, Alfors SN. Prescription drug advertising and promotion: Learnings from recent Food and Drug Administration warning letters. Drug Info J. 2007;41(3):281–289.Google Scholar
- 42.Prescription Drug Advertising. Code of Federal Regulations. Chapter 21. Section 202.1(e):(5).Google Scholar
- 43.Prescription Drug Advertising. Code of Federal Regulations. Chapter 21. Section 202.1(k).Google Scholar
- 44.Prescription Drug Advertising. Code of Federal Regulations. Chapter 21. Section 202.1(e)(1).Google Scholar
- 45.Thompson Medical Co Inc vs Federal Trade Commission. 104 F.T.C. 648, 839 (1984), aff’d, 791 F.2d 189 (D.C. Cir. 1986), cert. denied, 479 U.S. 1086 (1987).Google Scholar
- 46.FTC Policy Statement Regarding Advertising Substantiation. Appended to Thompson Medical Co., 104 F.T.C. 648, 839 (1984), aff’d, 791 F.2d 189 (D.C. Cir. 1986), cert. denied, 479 U.S. 1086 (1987).Google Scholar
- 47.Faerber AE. Systematic assessment of true, misleading and false claims in advertisements for prescription and nonprescription drugs on television. Unpublished Doctoral Dissertation, University of Wisconsin. 2012.Google Scholar
- 48.McGuire WJ. McGuire’s Classic Input-Output Framework for Constructing Persuasive Messages. In: Rice RE, Aikin CK, eds. Public Communication Campaigns. 4 ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications: 133–146.Google Scholar
- 49.Percy L, Rosenbaum-Elliott R. Strategic advertising management. Oxford: OUP; 2012.Google Scholar
- 52.Preston I. The Tangled Web They Weave: Truth, Falsity and Advertisers. Madison: The University of Wisconsin Press; 1994.Google Scholar
- 53.McDonagh M, Hefland M. Drug Effectiveness Review Project (DERP). Available at: http://www.ohsu.edu/xd/research/centers-institutes/evidence-based-policy-center/derp/index.cfm. Accessed July 12, 2013.
- 54.McDonagh M, Helfand M. Drug effectiveness review project systematic review methods and procedures. Oregon Health and Science University. 2011. Available at: http://www.ohsu.edu/xd/research/centers-institutes/evidence-based-policy-center/derp/documents/upload/DERP_METHODS_WEB_Final_January-2011-2.pdf. Accessed July 12, 2013.
- 62.Lamb E. Top 200 Drugs of 2008. Pharmacy Times. 2009:1–6. Available at: http://www.pharmacytimes.com/publications/issue/2009/2009-05/RxFocusTop200Drugs-0509. Accessed June 17, 2013.
- 63.Bayer Aspirin Products. Wonderdrug.com. Archived on January 7, 2010. Available at: http://web.archive.org/web/20100107025839/http://wonderdrug.com/products/products.htm. Accessed June 17, 2013.
- 64.Bayer Aspirin Products. Wonderdrug.com. Archived on February 5, 2009. Available at: http://web.archive.org/web/20090205040553/http://wonderdrug.com/products/products.htm. Accessed June 17, 2013.
- 65.Alka-Seltzer Plus Fast Crystal Packs. alkaseltzerplus.com. Available at: http://www.alkaseltzerplus.com/asp/products/fast_crystal_packs.html. Accessed June 17, 2013.
- 66.Formula 44 Custom Care Cough & Cold PM Medicine. Vicks.com. Available at: http://www.vicks.com/products/formula-44/cold-pm-medicine/. Accessed June 17, 2013.
- 67.Bean L. Nad Reviews Advertising for Bayer’s “Aleve” liquid gels, finds claims substantiated by Bayer’s evidence. ASRCReviewsorg. 2009:1–4. Available at: http://www.asrcreviews.org/2009/10/nad-reviews-advertising-for-bayers-aleve-liquid-gels-finds-claims-substantiated-by-bayers-evidence/.
- 68.NIH Consensus Development Panel on Osteoporosis Prevention, Diagnosis, and Therapy. Osteoporosis prevention, diagnosis, and therapy. In: Vol 285. 2001:785–795.Google Scholar
- 69.PhRMA. PhRMA Guiding Principles Direct to Consumer Advertisements about Prescription Medicines. Pharmaceutical Manufacturers of America. Pharmaceutical Manufacturers of America; 2008:1–16. Available at: http://www.phrma.org/direct-to-consumer-advertising.
- 70.Edmonds R, Appelbaum J, Morgan J, et al. The State of the News Media 2012. The pew project for excellence in journalism. 2012. Available at: http://stateofthemedia.org/overview-2012/. Accessed August 7, 2013.