Self-reported influence of television-based direct-to-consumer advertising on patient seasonal allergy and asthma medication use: An internet survey

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Background: Direct-to-consumer advertising (DDTCA) of medications, a marketing tool used by the pharmaceutical industry to increase patient awareness of products, affects both consumer behavior and, ultimately, physician prescribing practices. Billions of dollars are budgeted each year for DTCA, and its influence is far-reaching. However, little information is available about patient-initiated physician interactions in which television-bbased DTCA has played a role in consumer behavior.

Objective: The objective of this study was to explore the influence of television-based DTCA on treatment changes in patient-initiated medication use.

Methods: A 68-item survey instrument consisting of dichotomous, multiple-choice, and open-ended questions was constructed and sent to a convenience sample of US residents during 3 consecutive months ending in February 2005. The survey, which was accessed through an Internet link provided in the e-mail, was designed to capture data about patient perceptions and behaviors regarding television-based DTCA of prescription medications used for seasonal allergy and asthma as well as demographic information. Inferential and descriptive analyses were performed. Key tests included Crosstabs analysis and normal approximation to the binomial test with the z score.

Results: Surveys were sent to 2500 individuals. A total of 427 valid surveys were returned for a 17.1% response rate. Of the 402 respondents (94.1%) who stated that they had seen DTCA for seasonal allergy medication, 50 (12.4%) said they had discussed the advertised medication with their physician and 22 of those discussions (44.0%) resulted in a change in treatment. Three hundred forty-two respondents (80.1%) stated that they had viewed DTCA for prescription asthma medications, and 23 of those respondents (6.7%) said that they had discussed the brand of asthma medication viewed on television with their physician. Those discussions resulted in a change in treatment for 9 respondents (39.1%).

Conclusion: Within this limited, self-reported, survey sample, patient-initiated discussions with physicians regarding television-based DTCA of allergy and asthma medications resulted in a change of treatment in 44.0% and 39.1% of respondents, respectively.