Proposed FDA Study to Look at DTC Advertising, Social Media

Posted 17 January 2012 | By Alexander Gaffney, RAC 

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced today that it is planning on conducting a survey of healthcare professionals regarding their opinions and perceptions of prescription drug promotion directed at consumers and healthcare providers.

FDA's Federal Register posting notes that consumers and providers alike are subject to direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertising from pharmaceutical companies, and that questions have been raised regarding the influence of these commercials on patient care. FDA conducted a similar survey on the influence of DTC advertising in 2002.

The current survey will also target so-called "physician extenders"-including nurses and physician assistants-that FDA says are providing an "increasingly vital role in primary care delivery." The 2002 study did not include physician extenders, but instead focused on general practitioners and specialists.

Notes FDA, "Because DTC advertising likely affects daily interactions between patients and nurse practitioners and physician assistants […] including these groups in the new sample will further understanding of DTC advertising in the healthcare system."

The new proposed study would also weight the race, age and sex of respondents to better reflect national demographic patterns.

In addition to more traditional questions on the effects of DTC advertising, FDA will also look at how social media is affecting healthcare professionals' prescribing habits, and seek to gain an awareness of "new and emerging promotion sites and practices."

Comments on the proposed survey are due by 19 March 2012.

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