Researchers have warned consumers that they should be wary of advertisements for pharmaceuticals on the nightly TV news, as six out of 10 claims could potentially mislead the viewer.
Researchers Adrienne E. Faerber of The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice and David H. Kreling of The University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Pharmacy found that potentially misleading claims are prevalent throughout consumer-targeted prescription and non-prescription drug advertisements on television.
Over the past 15 years, researchers and policymakers have debated whether drug advertising informs consumers about new drugs, or persuades consumers to take medicines that they may not need.
“Healthcare consumers need unrestricted access to high-quality information about health, but these TV drug ads had misleading statements that omitted or exaggerated information. These results conflict with arguments that drug ads are helping inform consumers,” Faerber of The Dartmouth Institute said.
The researchers reviewed 168 TV advertisements for prescription and over-the-counter drugs aired between 2008 and 2010, and identified statements that were strongly emphasized in the ad.
A team of trained analysts then classified those claims as being truthful, potentially misleading or false.
They found that false claims, which are factually false or unsubstantiated, were rare, with only 1 in 10 claims false. False advertising is illegal and can lead to criminal and civil penalties.
Most claims were potentially misleading – 6 in 10 claims left out important information, exaggerated information, provided opinions, or made meaningless associations with lifestyles, the researchers said.
False or potentially misleading claims may be more frequent in over-the-counter drug ads than ads for prescription drugs – 6 of 10 claims in prescription drug ads were misleading or false, while 8 of 10 claims in OTC drug ads were misleading or false.
The research is published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine