Effectiveness of DTC Drug Advertisements – FDA to Survey Patients About Impact of Ads

March 4, 2016

FDA To Conduct Survey On Effectiveness of Direct-to-Consumer (DTC) Drug Advertisements

Late last month, FDA announced plans to launch a public survey to ask patients about their experiences with direct-to-consumer (DTC) drug advertisements.


In 2002, the FDA surveyed patients and physicians about their experiences with and attitudes toward DTC drug ads. Since then, there have been a number of changes that have affected the DTC landscape, including:

  • Declines in print readership.
  • Rise in online prescription drug promotion.
  • Rise in self-imposed industry guidelines for DTC advertising.

FDA states that these changes “may have affected consumers’ exposure to different kinds of DTC advertising and its influences on their attitudes and behaviors.” Accordingly, the Agency fully intends to find out whether or not there has actually been a change in patients’ attitudes.

Public Survey

The FDA wants to conduct a public survey to discover whether or not the recent changes to the DTC landscape have affected the way consumers view DTC drug ads. As such, the FDA plans “to collect updated insights on consumer experiences with and attitudes toward DTC promotion of prescription drugs.” The Agency will build upon previous research by engaging a more diverse group of respondents. In addition, the FDA also stated that it plans to make the data nationally representative and also ask a wider range of questions about DTC promotion. The surveys will be distributed using both online and paper/mail formats to reach participants.

Survey participants will be asked questions regarding their knowledge of the Agency’s authority over prescription drug advertising, their exposure to DTC ads, their beliefs and attitudes toward DTC ads, and the influence of DTC ads on further information search and patient-physician interactions. “At the end of the survey, respondents will be randomly assigned to view one of two ads for fictional prescription drugs intended to treat high cholesterol.” After viewing the ad, participants will be asked various questions about the Agency’s authority regarding specific claims that are made within the ad. There will be a debriefing within the survey, informing participants that the drug being advertised was fake.

Furthermore, the Agency stated that the survey is available upon request, and that it will measure other potentially important characteristics, including:

  • Demographics
  • Insurance coverage
  • Prescription drug use

The FDA has said that it will test for differences between the two versions of the survey (online vs. mail), and any discrepancies that exist will be accounted for in its analyses. The data that is collected will be analyzed and compared to the data that was received in response to the FDA’s survey that was conducted in 2002.

FDA is seeking feedback on the proposed survey, and has asked interested persons to submit electronic or written comments by April 29, 2016.

Additional information on FDA's investigation of DTC drug ads is available in our previous FDA News article entitled "Can Consumers Handle More Quantitative Info in TV Ads? FDA Plans to Find Out…"


The Weinberg Group has significant expertise in working through advertising compliance issues. To discuss this or any other FDA-related matter, contact us today.


March 21, 2016

Direct-to-Consumer (DTC) Drug Advertisements, Part Three

FDA’s Proposed Study on Consumer Understanding of Quantitative Information in DTC Drug Ads In October 2015, the FDA announced plans to conduct a study which would determine how much quantitative...

March 15, 2016

Direct-to-Consumer (DTC) Drug Advertisements, Part Two

FDA to Study How Superimposed Text in Direct-to-Consumer Drug Ads Impacts Consumer Comprehension Over the past few weeks, the FDA announced plans to launch public surveys and conduct studies relating...

May 31, 2016

FDA Approves Implant Device to Treat Opioid Addiction

On Thursday, May 26th, FDA announced the approval of Probuphine® , a buprenorphine implant for the treatment of opioid dependence. The implant is the first device of its kind, and “is designed to...