Economic Content in Medical Journal Advertisements for Medical Devices and Prescription Drugs
Background: Previous studies of economic content in medical journal advertisements have not examined all types of economic content and have not included advertisements for medical devices.
Objective: To examine trends in the economic content of medical device and pharmaceutical advertisements in medical journals.
Methods: Three reviewers examined pharmaceutical and medical device advertisements in six leading medical journals from 1997 through 2006. Product characteristics, economic claims and evidence to support those claims were evaluated.
Results: Economic content appeared in 23.5%(561/2389) of pharmaceutical and device advertisements; 11.9% made market share claims and 12.7% made other economic claims. From 1997 through 2006, the percentage of medical device advertisements containing economic content declined from 26.7% to 6.7% (p = 0.02), whereas the percentage of pharmaceutical advertisements containing economic content remained stable (21.6–22.0%; p= 0.99). For pharmaceuticals, price claims declined significantly (15.7-4.2%; p< 0.01) and market share claims increased (2.8–11.5%; p= 0.09), and both consistently presented evidence (83% and 98%, respectively) while other types did not (e.g. 13.5%of formulary claims). Medical device economic claims differed from pharmaceutical economic claims; they made fewer market share claims (1.1% vs 12.8%) but more cost-effectiveness (6.5%vs 0.6%) and reimbursement (4.9% vs 0.8%) claims. Fewer than 2%of device advertisements with economic claims provided supporting evidence.
Conclusion: The prevalence and type of economic content in pharmaceutical and device advertisements changed between 1997 and 2006, which may reflect evolving market dynamics, such as changes in reimbursement systems. Furthermore, the lack of supporting evidence in medical device advertisements and pharmaceutical formulary claims are potential areas of concern that require additional scrutiny by regulators and journal editors.
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