Direct-to-consumer advertising (DTCA) of prescription drugs has remained controversial since regulations were liberalized by the Food and Drug Administration in 1997. We reviewed empirical evidence addressing the claims made in the policy debate for and against DTCA. This advertising has some benefits, but significant risks are evident as well, magnified by the prominence of DTCA in population-level health communications. To minimize potential harm and maximize the benefits of DTCA for population health, the quality and quantity of information should be improved to enable consumers to better self-identify whether treatment is indicated, more realistically appraise the benefits, and better attend to the risks associated with prescription drugs. We propose guidelines for improving the utility of prescription drug advertising.