RTI International to collaborate with FDA research on direct-to-consumer prescription drug ads

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. – Researchers at RTI International will lead a series of new studies for the Food and Drug Administration on the effects of direct-to-consumer advertisements for prescription medications.

As part of five new awards from the FDA, totaling nearly $4 million, RTI will examine consumer’s responses to various types of risk, benefit and cost information contained in direct-to-consumer prescription drug advertising that is done via television, web and mobile communication channels. The projects will be led by staff members in RTI’s new Center for Communication Science, led by Lauren McCormack, Ph.D.  

“The data collected from these research projects will assist the FDA in making evidence-based decisions regarding the regulation of prescription drug promotion,” McCormack said.

The studies include:

  • Attentional effects in pharmaceutical ad viewing – As part of a multiple-year contract worth almost $300,000, RTI researchers will use eye-tracking technology to better understand consumer attention to advertised risks and benefit information of medications. The FDA can use the findings to further develop guidelines for how pharmaceuticals companies must relay risk information in their advertisements.
     
  • Caregiver influence on consumer perceptions of pharmaceutical ads – As part of a multiple-year contract worth more than $1.1 million, RTI researchers will conduct an experimental study in which an individual who has experienced a particular disease and his or her spouse or partner will react to print and television advertisements selling a drug to treat that disease. RTI will evaluate how caregivers influence consumer perceptions of pharmaceutical advertisements. The results will help policy makers evaluate the effects of social networks on understanding of, and reaction to, prescription drug risk and benefit information presented in the advertisements.
     
  • Cost comparison effect on consumer understanding of drug’s safety, efficacy, and side effects – As part of a multiple-year contract, worth nearly $800,000, RTI will assess the extent to which prescription drug television advertisements that include cost comparison information may affect consumers’ understanding of the differences in safety, efficacy and side effects among different drug manufacturers.
     
  • TV ad frequency’s effect on perceptions of risks and benefits – As part of a multiple-year contract worth almost $1.2 million, RTI researchers will explore how the frequency of exposure to prescription drug television advertisements affects consumers’ understanding of the risks and benefits of prescription drugs.
     
  •  Web and mobile technology promotion content analysis – As part of a multiple-year contract worth nearly $350,000, RTI researchers will conduct the two large-scale, systematic content analyses of direct-to-consumer prescription drug advertising in mobile media and on the Internet.  One analysis will focus on branded prescription drug promotion using mobile technology and the other analyses will focus on cancer-related branded prescription drug websites. This project will provide policy officials with information about  the efficacy of using technology as a platform in direct-to-consumer prescription drug advertising.

“These contracts will help FDA move forward in understanding the everyday information environment consumers engage as they make decisions about prescription drugs with their health care providers,” said Brian Southwell, Ph.D., senior research scientist at RTI International and one of the project staff.

 

Woman reading a pill bottle in a pharmacy

Highlights

  • Researchers at RTI will lead a series of new studies for the FDA on the effects of direct-to-consumer advertisements for prescription medications
  • RTI won five new awards from the FDA, totaling nearly $4 million
  • RTI will examine consumer’s responses to various types of risk, benefit and cost information contained in direct-to-consumer prescription drug advertising that is done via television, web and mobile communication channels