Direct-to-consumer drug advertising can lead to an increase in physician visits and prescriptions, shows a new study.
The researchers from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine said that these ads typically use emotional appeals to urge consumers to consider medical causes for their symptoms.
According to lead author Dr. Spencer D. Dorn, fellow in gastroenterology and hepatology, direct to consumer advertisements may increase patient awareness and empower them to discuss their health concerns with their physician, and professional promotion may increase physician recognition of constipation and IBS.
"But promotion to physicians may result in overprescribing and overuse of even mildly effective drugs such as tegaserod before adequate information on their health risk is available," said Dorn.
For instance, drug tegaserod, brand name Zelnorm, used for chronic constipation and irritable bowel syndrome was intensely marketed to physicians as well as the public from 2002 to 2007.
The team sought to determine the relationship between this promotional campaign and the number of visits for abdominal pain, constipation, and bloating, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) diagnoses, and tegaserod prescriptions.
"We found that in the three months immediately following the start of the tegaserod advertising campaign there were 1 million more physician visits for constipation and IBS like symptoms and 400,000 more IBS diagnoses," said Dorn.
"However, over time this trend reversed and eventually the number of visits and diagnoses returned to baseline," he added.
The findings were presented at Digestive Disease Week in Chicago, Illinois.