Direct‐to‐consumer prescription drug advertising: concerns and evidence on consumers' benefit

Jaeun Shin (KDI School of Public Policy and Management, Seoul, South Korea)
Sangho Moon (SungKyunKwan University, Seoul, South Korea)

Journal of Consumer Marketing

ISSN: 0736-3761

Publication date: 1 December 2005



The purpose of this study is to provide an overview of the economic and clinical impacts of direct‐to‐consumer (DTC) advertising on consumers and physicians.


Controversy around the benefits and concerns associated with DTC advertising are summarized. The sources are sorted based on their position toward DTC promotions: defending or opposing. Two recent works by Woloshin et al. and by Weisseman et al. are discussed in depth to provide the empirical evidence for the impacts of DTC promotions.


Notwithstanding many concerns against DTC advertising, evidence‐based papers report that both consumers and physicians are potentially benefited from it. Consumers rate the health‐related information contained in DTC advertising as important. Physicians do not feel that they are pressured to prescribe inappropriate medications driven by DTC advertising. Physicians perceive improved communication and education among DTCA‐influenced patients. However, consumers tend to overestimate drug effectiveness when the ads vaguely convey the benefit information and subsequently, seek unnecessary treatments. DTC advertising needs to be required to demonstrate the benefit information using actual data. This will help consumers avoid overuse of drugs.


This paper recognizes DTC advertising as a positive force for the public health and at the same time identifies its potential negative effects on the economic and clinical aspects of the health care markets. This can offer practical help policymakers develop the effective regulations on DTC advertisings to reinforce the beneficial outcome while attenuating the potential harms that might take place.



Shin, J. and Moon, S. (2005), "Direct‐to‐consumer prescription drug advertising: concerns and evidence on consumers' benefit", Journal of Consumer Marketing, Vol. 22 No. 7, pp. 397-403.

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Copyright © 2005, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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