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April 27, 2005

Direct-to-Consumer Advertising: A Haphazard Approach to Health Promotion

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliation: Department of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle.

JAMA. 2005;293(16):2030-2033. doi:10.1001/jama.293.16.2030

In JAMA 6 years ago, Holmer (then president of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America) and I published paired opinion pieces about the public health benefit of direct-to-consumer advertising (DTCA). Holmer wrote, “[DTCA] is an excellent way to meet the growing demand for medical information, empowering consumers by educating them about health conditions and possible treatments.”1 I countered that, “unlike the truly valuable contributions of the pharmaceutical industry, [DTCA] is not good for patients, physicians, or the public’s health.”2 Neither of us had much evidence to substantiate our arguments. We agreed that policymakers needed studies to determine more definitively the impact on public health.