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With the Food & Drug Administration set to issue new guidelines on direct-to-consumer advertising of prescription drugs later this year, the media and pharmaceutical industries are out to prove the ads are as propitious for consumers as they are for them.

In August, Prevention will unveil the latest survey that shows DTC prescription drug ads are doing a healthy job of luring patients into doctors' offices. That study follows recent surveys by Time Inc. and researcher IMS Health.

The latest survey indicates that 31% of 1,200 respondents have talked to a physician about an advertised treatment. The Time survey, released June 17, showed 23% of respondents spoke with a healthcare professional after seeing a DTC ad.

The Prevention study further shows that more than 50% of the people who were prompted by a DTC TV or print ad to ask their doctor for a drug had received a prescription for it; the Time study had that number at 23%.


Both studies are an attempt by magazines to fuel the fire igniting DTC advertising while trying to ensure their own medium isn't forgotten by the drug marketers as TV usage continues to grow.

Last year, more than half the $1.3 billion spent on DTC advertising was allocated to TV, up from 29% of the $1.07 billion in 1997, according to IMS Health.

People are "looking for information and taking action by going to their doctor," Prevention Publisher Steve Giannetti said of the survey's findings.

The FDA loosened its requirements for DTC prescription drug advertising in 1997; another change in those guidelines could stem the tide. But industry observers doubt the FDA will take action to halt its earlier moves.


Although most media executives sing the praises of DTC advertising, some caution that DTC dollars need to be spent wisely.

"I don't think [DTC] universally works," said Anne Devereux, president-CEO of agency Consumer Healthworks, New York. "I think it works when it's done appropriately and sensitively, and in steps. To throw $30 million in the marketplace before you have 'stepped learnings' is dangerous."

"There is [a] myth in direct-to-consumer advertising that physicians are adequate gatekeepers," said Larry Sasich, a pharmacist with advocacy group Public Citizen.

Ed Slaughter, research director for Prevention publisher Rodale Press, said his survey's results show 76% of respondents are helped in becoming more involved in their own healthcare decisions by DTC ads, and that 72% said the ads educate people about both the risks and benefits of prescription drugs.

"What DTC advertising allows people to do is to take charge of part of their health," he said.

Prevention's 1997 study showed 63% of respondents had seen a DTC ad. That number

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