Drug Ads Focus on Lifestyle Boosts, Not Medical Benefits
If you watch television, prescription drug commercials, which are getting longer and longer, are hard to miss. A study conducted at the University of South Florida in Tampa and published in the Annals of Family Medicine suggests that many of these ads provide fewer facts about the drugs they promote and more information about the lifestyle improvements they supposedly offer.
In this study, researchers compared data on 2016 primetime prescription-drug commercials on major networks (ABC, CBS, NBC, and FOX) for 13 weeks to data from a similar study conducted in 2004. They found that almost 57 percent of the 2016 ads portrayed the actors as regaining control of their lives, improving their level of social approval, and increasing their endurance in activities like bicycling and hiking, up from about 40 percent of drug ads in 2004.
The 2016 prescription drug commercials were also an average of 30 percent longer, but contained significantly less information about the actual medical condition. Ads explaining associated risk factors fell by 26 percent, to just 16 percent, and those explaining the condition’s prevalence fell from 25 percent to 16 percent.