Direct-to-Consumer Prescription Drug Advertising: Understanding Its Consequences

Jisu Huh
University of Minnesota

Lee B. Becker
University of Georgia


Direct-to-consumer (DTC) prescription drug advertising is allowed in only two countries: the USA and New Zealand. Even in the USA, this type of advertising is a relatively new phenomenon. Until the early 1980s, most marketing efforts by pharmaceutical manufacturers concentrated on creating and maintaining supply-chain demand for their prescription drugs through sales promotion and detailing (Holtz 1998). If advertising was used in a pharmaceutical company's marketing programme, it took the form of trade advertising directed at physicians and pharmacists. Even after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allowed DTC advertising in 1985, pharmaceutical companies did not rush to embrace the DTC advertising practice because of strict regulations (Rogers 1986; Holtz 1998).