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Direct-to-Consumer Advertising of Prescription Drugs: Exposure and Response

This AARP Bulletin telephone survey, which was conducted to gauge the prevalence of consumer exposure to prescription drug advertising, found that most Americans age 18 and older (90%) have seen or heard one or more prescription drug advertisements; and most often, it was on the television (78%). One in five have seen or heard prescription drug advertisements on the Internet (19%), and approximately one in seven have seen or heard advertisements in newspapers (16%), pharmacies (14%) and on the radio (14%).

 Other key findings include:

  • While 1 in 10 of the respondents (10%) who have seen or heard a prescription drug advertisement have asked their doctor for the advertised drug, about two-thirds (68%) of those who have ever asked their physician either received a prescription (41%) for the advertised drug or received a free sample (27%).
  • Most of the respondents (71%) read the safety and side effect information that by law accompanies prescription drugs, but over a quarter find the information frightening (15%) or confusing (13%).

This survey was conducted by telephone by  SSRSan independent research company.  A national sample of 1,019 Americans age 18 and older completed interviews from September 22-September 26, 2010 . For more information, please contact the author, Helen W. Brown,  at 202-434-6172.