BACKGROUND: Broadcast direct-to-consumer (DTC) prescription drug ads that present product claims are required to also present the product's major risks. Debate exists regarding how much information should be included in these major risk statements. Some argue that such statements expose people to unnecessary amounts of information, while others argue that they leave out important information.
OBJECTIVES: Examine the impact of type of risk statement (unedited versus serious and actionable risks only) and a disclosure indicating that not all risks are presented on consumers' ability to remember the important risks and benefits of a drug following exposure to a DTC television advertisement (ad). Risk and benefit perceptions, ad-prompted actions, recognition of the disclosure statement, and evaluations of both the disclosure and risk statement were also examined.
METHODS: A web-based experiment was conducted in which US adults who self-reported as having depression (N = 500), insomnia (N = 500), or high cholesterol (N = 500) were randomly assigned to view one of four versions of the television ad, and then complete a questionnaire.
RESULTS: The type of risk statement had a significant effect on risk recall and recognition, benefit recognition, perceived risk severity (depression condition only), and perceived benefit magnitude (high cholesterol condition only). Disclosure recognition (using bias-corrected scores) ranged from 63% to 70% across the three illness samples.
CONCLUSIONS: The revised risk statement improved overall processing of the television ad, as evidenced by improved risk recall and recognition and improved benefit recognition. Further, the presence of the disclosure did not adversely affect consumers' processing of drug risk and benefit information. Therefore, limiting the risks presented in DTC television ads and including a disclosure alerting consumers that not all risks are presented may be an effective strategy for communicating product risks.