Background: The use of direct-to-consumer advertising (DTCA) by pharmaceutical companies is increasing. Our study examines the opinions and experiences of family physicians concerning DTCA.
Methods: A survey instrument designed to elicit the opinions, experiences, and perceptions of family physicians about DTCA was sent to a 2% (N = 880) systematic sampling of active physician members of the American Academy of Family Physicians. Descriptive statistics were used to analyze responses with t tests and chi 2 tests for independence used to examine subgroup response differences.
Results: Four hundred fifty-four (52%) physicians responded to the survey. Most physicians (95%) had encountered DTCA personally, and had been approached by an average of 7 patients over the previous 6 months with requests for specific prescription drugs. Prescription antihistamines and antihypertensive drugs were the most commonly requested. Overall, 80% of the physician respondents believed that print DTCA was not a good idea, while 84% expressed negative feelings about television and radio advertising. Both groups cited "misleading biased view" and "increased costs" as the most common disadvantages. Some reported benefits included "better informed patients" and "promoting physician-patient communication."
Conclusions: Overall, the study group physicians had negative feelings about DTCA in both print and electronic media. Studies directly examining patient perspectives, as well as cost benefits, are necessary to test the validity of the physicians' perceptions about DTCA.