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J Health Commun. 2007 Jan-Feb;12(1):29-39.

Pharmaceutical websites and the communication of risk information.

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  • 1School of Communication, San Diego State University, San Diego, California 92182, USA.


This study examines the pharmaceutical websites of 44 leading direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertised drugs to determine the extent to which risk information was completely communicated. Three operational definitions of "completeness" were used: communication of the single highest incidence side effect, communication of top three highest incidence side effects, and communication of side effects with incidence of >or= 10% (all measured in terms of absolute percentage). Results indicated that regardless of the measures used, pharmaceutical websites are unlikely to completely communicate risk information. About two thirds of all sites communicated the single highest incidence side effect or all top three side effects. For drugs with side effects at >or= 10% incidence, only about half of their websites fully reported all effects at this level of incidence. Implications for advertisers and regulatory agencies are presented.

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