Since the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released new guidelines on broadcast direct-to-consumer advertising in 1997, the prevalence of direct-to-consumer advertising of prescription drugs has increased exponentially. The impact on providers, patients, and the health care system is varied and dynamic, and the rapid changes in the last several years have markedly altered the health care landscape. To continue providing optimal medical care, physicians and other health care providers must be able to manage this influence on their practice, and a more thorough understanding of this phenomenon is an integral step toward this goal. This review will summarize the history of direct-to-consumer drug advertisements and the current regulations governing them. It will summarize the evidence concerning the impact of direct-to-consumer advertising on the public, providers, and the health care system, and conclude with observations regarding the future of direct-to-consumer advertising.