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Health Mark Q. 1999;17(2):7-18.

Accuracy of information on printed over-the-counter drug advertisements.

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Department of Pharmacy Practice and Administrative Sciences, College of Pharmacy, Idaho State University, Pocatello 83209, USA.


Direct-to-consumer drug advertising is a useful medium for educating people and disseminating product information. Consumers make product purchase decisions based on the information gained from advertisements. If advertisements are misleading, consumers may not have adequate drug knowledge to detect this misinformation. The objective of this study was to evaluate print advertisements for over-the-counter (OTC) products. Five clinical pharmacists evaluated print advertisements appearing in three consumer periodicals. Advertisements were selected over a nine month period beginning January 1994. Accuracy of information on OTC advertisements was determined based on federal guidelines. Additionally, reviewers identified deficiencies in advertisements that may mislead consumers. According to reviewers, around 50% of advertisements lacked accurate statements. Side effects were indicated on only one advertisement. All advertisements were indicated by reviewers to be more promotional than educational. Reviewers indicated that more than 50% of advertisements lacked information essential for consumers to make an informed choice during self-medication decisions. This study indicates that OTC drug advertisements lack information necessary for consumers to make informed purchase decisions. Inaccurate information and lack of information on side effects could mislead consumers causing harmful adverse events.

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