Physician Response to Contextualized Price-Comparison Claims in Prescription Drug Advertising

By Kevin R. Betts Kathryn J. Aikin Vanessa Boudewyns Mihaela Johnson Brian G. Southwell

Physician-targeted prescription drug advertisements sometimes include price comparisons between products that may misleadingly imply equivalence of efficacy and safety or misrepresent true savings, suggesting the potential utility of a context statement to explain what the claims do and do not mean.

We manipulated the presence of a price claim and a context statement in a 1 × 3 (control condition, price-comparison-only, price-comparison-plus-context) between-subjects design. Physicians (N = 1438), randomly assigned to condition, viewed the prescription drug ad and answered a brief survey. Primary outcome measures included recognition, perceived importance, and impact of the price-comparison claim, and recognition, understanding, and effectiveness of the context statement.

The majority of physicians accurately recognized the price claim (76.0%) but far fewer accurately recognized the associated context statement (44.9%). The context statement did not affect evaluations of the price-comparison claim importance or accuracy and did not have the intended effects on perceptions of uncertainty about drug interchangeability. Physicians may be affected by price-comparison claims in thinking that the drug has risks that are relatively less severe. Price-comparison claims also affected intentions to look for information about the drug.

Adding a realistic context statement to a physician-targeted prescription drug ad did not generate sufficient awareness of claim caveats to differentiate price-comparison response of those exposed to the context statement from those who were not.

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