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Claiming ‘#1 Prescribed’ in DTC Ads Can Influence Consumer Choice, FDA Study Finds

Posted 13 March 2019 | By Zachary Brennan 

Claiming ‘#1 Prescribed’ in DTC Ads Can Influence Consumer Choice, FDA Study Finds

Participants in a study on direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertising were more likely to select a product with a claim of “#1 Prescribed,” according to research funded by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and published last month.

“The extrinsic cue of #1 Prescribed slightly influenced participants’ choice, even when the intrinsic cue of efficacy information was available,” first author Kathryn Aikin and second author Kevin Betts, both of FDA’s Office of Prescription Drug Promotion, and two co-authors wrote in Research in Social and Administrative Pharmacy.

The study, which gave participants with diabetes two product options with some information on efficacy and one including the #1 Prescribed tag, found that the #1 Prescribed product was favored unless an alternative product was at least 1.23% more effective.

“While the claim appears to have a modest impact, even a small difference in perceived efficacy suggests that consumers do conflate market claims with efficacy, even if to a small extent,” the authors wrote.

They added that this finding suggests that consumers still select certain prescription drugs that are less effective based on a market claim, although they cautioned that only one type of market claim was tested in the study, so they do not know if the results can be generalized to other claims.

But the authors also note that their findings align with previous research on how certain marketing cues can influence consumer perceptions about product quality.

“Results from other research suggest that when efficacy is similar, presence of a market claim influences preferences. This study extends previous research by demonstrating that market claims impact people’s choice of drug when efficacy information is included,” they said.

The study comes as last October, FDA offered draft guidance on how to present efficacy and risk information in DTC promotional labeling and advertising.

Aikin and co-authors note that future research could evaluate the relative tradeoffs between market claims and quantitative information about risks, noting extrinsic cues “may influence health care professionals as well as consumers.”

Consumer tradeoff of advertising claim versus efficacy information in direct-to-consumer prescription drug ads

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