Sunday, May 15, 2005

Advertising Influences Doctor’s Prescribing

A recent study only fanned the fire of controversy surrounding the estimated $4 billion spent each year by the drug industry on direct-to-consumer advertising. Many advocates for public health have complained about drug ads showing happy people whose lives have been changed by a drug, which is where the study came into play.

The study involved sending actors pretending to be patients complaining of symptoms of stress and fatigue into 152 doctors' offices to see whether they would be given prescriptions. (The physicians had previously consented to participate but were not told when they would be tested.)

Researchers found that "patients" were five times as likely to walk out of doctors' offices with a prescription when they mentioned seeing an ad for the heavily promoted antidepressant Paxil.

Moreover, when the "patients" asked for Paxil specifically, 55 percent were given prescriptions and 50 percent were diagnosed with depression.

Read the study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Vol. 293 No. 16, April 27, 2005

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