A decade of controversy: balancing policy with evidence in the regulation of prescription drug advertising

Am J Public Health. 2010 Jan;100(1):24-32. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2008.153767.


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.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Advertising / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Advertising / standards
  • Community Participation
  • Government Regulation*
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Legislation, Drug*
  • Mass Media
  • Prescription Drugs* / adverse effects
  • United States
  • United States Food and Drug Administration / legislation & jurisprudence


  • Prescription Drugs