Direct-to-Consumer Drug Ads ‘Valuable Tool’ for Minorities, NMA Says
Direct-to-consumer prescription drug advertising has a "generally positive impact" on minority consumers and could be a "valuable tool" in eliminating racial disparities in health care, according to a study by the National Medical Association, a group representing 25,000 African-American doctors. The Wall Street Journal reports that the NMA study received funding from Pfizer. But the author of the study, Dr. Sharon Allison-Ottey, said that Pfizer "played no role in the design of the study or in interpreting its findings." The NMA surveyed 900 doctors and found that 90% of respondents said that patients had inquired about a drug they had seen in an advertisement. Fifty percent of respondents said that they believe DTC drug ads "help educate their patients" and foster doctor-patient communication. "Doctors are finding that these ads are helping our patients talk to us about medical conditions they're at risk for. When you consider that the majority of drugs advertised can treat the diseases that disproportionately affect the African-American community, there is incredible potential," Lucille Perez, president of the NMA, said. However, there is still "plenty of skepticism among African-American doctors over the value of advertising," the Journal reports. More than 50% of the respondents said that DTC advertising has some "negative effect" on patients. In addition, the same percentage of doctors doubted that patients were "more likely" to take medicines as prescribed because of the commercials. Thirty-eight percent of doctors said that they felt "additional pressure" to "justify" their prescriptions, while 9% said they changed their "prescription habits" because of that pressure. The report also said that the drug industry could "do a better job" of "focusing on diseases' symptoms and risks" and noted that the industry "could improve" its portrayal of African Americans in its advertisements, the Journal reports. Still, Allison-Ottey said, "The African-American community has a huge health disparities gap, and anything that will increase our patients' getting to the door of the doctor is a benefit" (Winslow, Wall Street Journal, 4/11).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.