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November 2016

Direct-to-Consumer Drug Advertising in Oncology Is Not Beneficial to Patients or Public Health

Author Affiliations
  • 1Division of Hematology-Oncology and Cancer Center, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts
  • 2Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts
JAMA Oncol. 2016;2(11):1397-1398. doi:10.1001/jamaoncol.2016.2463

Is cancer-related, direct-to-consumer advertising beneficial?—No.

In the current communications era, cancer medications, cancer-related genetic testing, and even cancer centers are often marketed directly to the public. While there is little evidence so far that it generates inappropriate treatment recommendations in oncology,1 cancer-related, direct-to-consumer advertising (CR-DTCA) is prone to cause harm in many other ways. These include potentially fostering patient misinterpretations of expected efficacy and toxic effects of drugs with concomitant harm to the patient-physician therapeutic relationship; encouraging patient interest in new drugs when their toxic effects are not fully appreciated; and failing to present alternative treatment approaches that may be less toxic or costly.

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