Prescription Drug Promotion from 2001-2014: Data from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration

PLoS One. 2016 May 5;11(5):e0155035. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0155035. eCollection 2016.


The volume of prescription drug promotion over time is often measured by assessing changes in ad spending. However, this method obscures the fact that some types of advertising are more expensive than others. Another way to measure the changes in prescription drug promotion over time is to assess the number of promotional pieces submitted to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Form FDA 2253 collects information such as the date submitted and the type of material submitted. We analyzed data from Forms FDA 2253 received from 2001-2014. We examined the frequency of submissions by audience (consumer and healthcare professional) and type of promotional material. There was a noted increase in prescription drug promotion submissions across all media in the early 2000s. Although non-Internet promotion submissions have since plateaued, Internet promotion continued to increase. These results can help public health advocates and regulators focus attention and resources.

MeSH terms

  • Drug Industry / statistics & numerical data
  • Health Personnel / statistics & numerical data
  • Health Promotion / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Internet
  • Prescription Drugs / therapeutic use*
  • Public Health / statistics & numerical data
  • Publications / statistics & numerical data
  • United States
  • United States Food and Drug Administration / statistics & numerical data*


  • Prescription Drugs

Grant support

This work received no specific funding. The authors completed this work as employees of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.