Why DTC Advertising Has Failed In the United States And How It Can Succeed

An exploratory study of consumer attitudes reveals the myths and the realities

Michelle Castillo
Renee Hopkins
Decision Analyst Inc.


Since the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) loosened its restrictions on direct-to-consumer advertising in 1997, pharmaceutical company spending on DTC advertising in the United States has gone from $791 million in 1996 to $2.5 billion in 2000. (1)

In summer 2001, the European Commission announced that a pilot scheme may be introduced to allow pharmaceutical companies to directly offer information to European consumers about treatments for AIDS, respiratory disorders, and diabetes. (2)

It appeared to be the perfect time to research consumer attitudes toward DTC (direct-to-consumer) advertising in order to learn whether the experience in the United States resulted in any guidelines that could be offered to Europe as it begins to go down the DTC road.