A scoping review of empirical research on prescription drug promotion
Giombi, K., Thompson, J., Wines, C., Haughney, R., Sullivan, H. W., & Betts, K. R. (2023). A scoping review of empirical research on prescription drug promotion. Research in Social & Administrative Pharmacy, 19(6), 859-872. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sapharm.2023.02.012
BACKGROUND: Pharmaceutical spending on prescription drug promotion is considerable, and exposure to advertising can influence demand and behavior. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) provides industry guidance to help ensure that communications to consumers and health care providers about prescription drug promotion are truthful, balanced, and accurately communicated. As empirical research has accelerated on this topic in the past decade, an understanding of the current landscape of the science will help inform future research.
OBJECTIVES: Using systematic methods, this rigorous scoping review of the literature over the past decade (2012-2021) (1) examined the extent to which prescription drug promotion has been empirically investigated with consumers, patients, and health care providers; (2) examined the extent to which content and features of prescription drug promotion have been empirically investigated; and (3) identified themes across the literature to better understand the current landscape of prescription drug promotion.
METHODS: Databases searched include PubMed, Web of Science, CINAHL, APA PsycInfo, Business Source Corporate, Communication Source, Cochrane Library, and ClinicalTrials.gov for original research published in English from January 1, 2012, through November 10, 2021, using terms related to direct-to-consumer advertising, prescription drugs, and outcomes of interest (e.g., attitudes, perceptions, intentions, behaviors).
RESULTS: Of 804 screened references, 151 studies addressed the first research question, and 40 studies addressed the second. The most common theme across the body of evidence focused on testing of features and content in prescription drug promotional materials (84), followed by studies examining attitudes, perceptions, and behaviors toward prescription drug promotion more generally (43). Some (27) studies focused on targeted populations, such as patients, the elderly, non-English speaking people or individuals of a non-white race/ethnicity. Twenty-four studies assessed influence of exposure to prescription drug promotion on actual clinical outcomes, while 11 studies examined emerging technologies around prescription drug promotion. Seven studies evaluated the extent to which prescription drug promotion complied with existing guidelines and requirements.
CONCLUSIONS: Findings from this scoping review suggest there has been an increase in the number of empirical studies conducted on prescription drug promotion over the past decade. Potential areas that warrant further study include examination of emerging technologies, an expanded focus on targeted populations, and construct measurement.