The cost-effectiveness of direct-to-consumer advertising for prescription drugs

Med Care Res Rev. 2009 Dec;66(6):639-57. doi: 10.1177/1077558709335362. Epub 2009 May 7.


In this paper we use published information to analyze the economic value of Direct to Consumer Advertising (DTCA). The reviewed research finds that DTCA leads to increased demand for the advertised drug and that the effect of the drug tends to be class-wide rather than product specific. There is weak evidence that DTCA may increase compliance and improve clinical outcomes. However, there is little research on the effect of DTCA on inappropriate prescribing or on the characteristics of patients who respond to treatment. On net, if the advertised drugs are cost effective on average and the patients using the drugs in response to the advertisement are similar to other users, DTCA is likely cost effective. Overall, the literature to date is consistent with the idea that DTCA is beneficial, but further research is needed before definitive conclusions can be drawn.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Advertising / economics*
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Drug Utilization
  • Drug and Narcotic Control
  • Fees, Pharmaceutical
  • Health Care Costs*
  • Humans
  • Patient Compliance
  • Prescription Drugs / economics*


  • Prescription Drugs