The Los Angeles Times says that the FDA is studying whether limiting TV drug ad disclosure only to serious side effects would improve consumer understanding. “Our hypothesis is that, relative to inclusion of the full major statement, providing limited risk information along with the disclosure about additional risks will promote improved consumer perception and understanding of serious and actionable drug risks,” the FDA said. Ha?
First, let me disclose that I have eaten a ton of M&M’s at focus group testing of DTC spots including fair-balance. Words like “side effects, sometimes fatal, have been reported” scare the hell out of consumers, but most today are smart enough to balance risks and benefits.
Where I believe the FDA is really going down a one-way street is their belief that TV ads actually, alone, drive consumers to ask for products. They don’t. What they do is drive consumers online to find out more about the product.
Now there are some products where consumers may not spend a lot of time researching their side effects like Viagra, or allergy products but as countless research has shown consumers will go online to learn about an Rx product and its competitors. This is especially true with increased co-pays.
The FDA thesis should be that consumers go online to get more information before requesting an Rx product and that one of the top pages they go to is the products’ safety page which can often be confusing and hard to understand.