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Original Investigation
March 21, 2017

Association Between Direct-to-Consumer Advertising and Testosterone Testing and Initiation in the United States, 2009-2013

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Epidemiology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • 2NORC at the University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois
  • 3Center for Drug Safety and Effectiveness, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, Maryland
  • 4Departments of Epidemiology and Medicine, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, Maryland
JAMA. 2017;317(11):1159-1166. doi:10.1001/jama.2016.21041
Key Points

Question  Is there an association between televised direct-to-consumer testosterone advertising and testosterone testing and initiation in the United States?

Findings  In this ecological study of 75 US designated market areas, each exposure to a testosterone advertisement was associated with monthly relative increases in rates of new testosterone testing of 0.6%, new initiation of 0.7%, and initiation without a recent baseline test of 0.8%.

Meaning  Regional exposure to televised direct-to-consumer advertising was associated with greater testosterone testing, new initiation, and initiation without recent serum testosterone tests.

Abstract

Importance  Testosterone initiation increased substantially in the United States from 2000 to 2013, especially among men without clear indications. Direct-to-consumer advertising (DTCA) also increased during this time.

Objective  To investigate associations between televised DTCA and testosterone testing and initiation in the United States.

Design, Setting, and Population  Ecologic study conducted in designated market areas (DMAs) in the United States. Monthly testosterone advertising ratings were linked to DMA-level testosterone use data from 2009-2013 derived from commercial insurance claims. Associations between DTCA and testosterone testing, initiation, and initiation without recent baseline tests were estimated using Poisson generalized estimating equations.

Exposures  Monthly Nielsen ratings for testosterone DTCA in the 75 largest DMAs.

Main Outcomes and Measures  (1) Rates of new serum testosterone testing; (2) rates of testosterone initiation (in-office injection, surgical implant, or pharmacy dispensing) for all testosterone products combined and for specific brands; and (3) rates of testosterone initiation without recent serum testosterone testing.

Results  Of 17 228 599 commercially insured men in the 75 DMAs, 1 007 990 (mean age, 49.6 [SD, 11.5] years) had new serum testosterone tests and 283 317 (mean age, 51.8 [SD, 11.3] years) initiated testosterone treatment. Advertising intensity varied by geographic region and time, with the highest intensity seen in the southeastern United States and with months ranging from no ad exposures to a mean of 13.6 exposures per household. Nonbranded advertisements were common prior to 2012, with branded advertisements becoming more common during and after 2012. Each household advertisement exposure was associated with a monthly increase in rates of new testosterone testing (rate ratio [RR], 1.006; 95% CI, 1.004-1.008), initiation (RR, 1.007; 95% CI, 1.004-1.010), and initiation without a recent test (RR, 1.008; 95% CI, 1.002-1.013). Mean absolute rate increases were 0.14 tests (95% CI, 0.09-0.19), 0.05 new initiations (95% CI, 0.03-0.08), and 0.02 initiations without a recent test (95% CI, 0.01-0.03) per 10 000 men for each monthly ad exposure over the entire period.

Conclusions and Relevance  Among US men residing in the 75 designated market areas, regional exposure to televised direct-to-consumer advertising was associated with greater testosterone testing, new initiation, and initiation without recent testing.

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