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Ninety-two percent of the doctors said they had been asked for specific advertised drugs by patients.
Commissioned by the Food and Drug Administration's Division of Drug Marketing, Advertising and Communications, the survey found that overall, physicians had mixed feelings about the effects of direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertising on doctor-patient relationships.
The results of the survey were released Monday at the Pharmaceutical Marketing Global Summit by Kathryn Aikin, a social science analyst with the FDA's DDMAC.
Of the 500 physicians surveyed by late last year by the division -- 250 general practitioners and 250 specialists selected by pharmaceutical makers and their advertising agencies -- 37% said the overall impact of DTC advertising on their patients and their practice had a somewhat positive effect. Some 28% said there was no effect at all and 27% said DTC advertising had a somewhat negative effect. Only 3% felt it had a very positive effect, and 5% said it had a very negative effect.
Dr. Aikin cautioned that the results were preliminary, and that the FDA had yet to reach any conclusions.
"We're not seeing a significantly negative impact," she said, "but we're not seeing a particularly positive one, either."
The survey was considered an important barometer of physician attitudes on DTC advertising, which is under scrutiny by the federal government for a perceived imbalance between cost of promotion and cost of the drug. The issue figures to be a key topic of discussion and legislation in the 108th session of Congress.
The survey examined a number of key variables, including overall DTC impact on physician practices; physician attitudes as to benefits/problems in patient relationships; perceived pressure to prescribe DTC advertised drugs; and physician attitudes as to the level of patient understanding of such advertising.
Other results of the survey:
- On the impact of DTC advertising on patient interaction, 92% of the physicians said they
could think of at least one patient who instituted discussion about a drug that was advertised.
- During the course of that patient interaction, 47% of physicians said they felt a little or somewhat pressured to prescribe that drug.
- As to possible problems DTC ads create on a practice, only 28% of the physicians surveyed said that DTC advertised drugs caused tension between them and their patients.
- And as to the benefits, 72% of the physicians said DTC advertising makes patients more aware of possible treatments.