Direct-to-Consumer Prescription Drug Advertising and Patient-Provider Interactions

J Am Board Fam Med. 2020 Mar-Apr;33(2):279-283. doi: 10.3122/jabfm.2020.02.190278.


Background: Direct-to-consumer prescription drug advertising is prevalent and affects patient care. Previous research that examined its effect on the patient-provider relationship predates many changes in the advertising and medical landscape that have occurred in the last decade, such as the rise in online promotion and the push for value-based medicine.

Methods: We conducted a nationally representative mail-push-to-web survey of 1744 US adults in 2017 to explore how patients view the effects of direct-to-consumer prescription drug advertising on patient-provider interactions.

Results: Most respondents (76%) said they were likely to ask a health care provider about advertised drugs; 26% said they had already done so. Among the 26% of respondents who talked to a health care provider about a specific prescription drug they saw advertised, 16% said they received a prescription for the advertised drug. Few respondents (5%) reported that advertising had caused conflict with a health care provider, 16% said it had caused them to question their provider's advice, and 23% said they were likely to look for a different provider if their provider refused to prescribe a requested brand name drug.

Discussion: These results suggest that direct-to-consumer advertising is driving some patients to discuss specific products with their health care providers but that most patients do not believe advertising has a negative influence on the patient-provider interaction itself.

Keywords: Direct-to-Consumer Advertising; Health Personnel; Patient Care; Prescription Drugs; Surveys and Questionnaires.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Advertising
  • Direct-to-Consumer Advertising*
  • Drug Industry
  • Drug Prescriptions
  • Humans
  • Prescription Drugs*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires


  • Prescription Drugs