Drugs & Aging

, Volume 23, Issue 1, pp 71–81 | Cite as

The Effect of Direct-to-Consumer Advertising on Prescription Drug Use by Older Adults

  • Balaji Datti
  • Mary W. Carter
Original Research Article


Background and objective

Although older adults are frequent consumers of prescription drugs and increasingly the intended audience of direct-to-consumer advertising (DTCA) marketing efforts, little is known about the effect of DTCA on older adults’ prescription drug-seeking behaviour. In response, the objective of this study is to examine factors associated with requesting a prescription drug from a physician following exposure to DTCA among older adults, and whether the drug or other medical treatment was prescribed during the encounter.


A secondary data analysis of the “Public Health Impact of Direct-to-Consumer Advertising of Prescription Drugs”, a data set publicly available through the Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR 3687), was conducted. For the purposes of this study, only those respondents who indicated that they had been exposed to DTCA (n = 2601) were included in the study sample. Using a two-step weighted logistic regression approach, separate models were estimated to examine first, whether a request for the advertised drug was made following exposure to DTCA and secondly, the outcomes of any patient-physician encounters that occurred following exposure to DTCA.


Descriptive analysis of the outcome variables revealed that, among respondents exposed to DTCA, 31% (n = 801) requested a prescription drug from their physician. Approximately 5% of those who made a request were ≥75 years of age. Among respondents requesting a prescription drug, 69% (n = 556) received a prescription in response to their request, of whom, approximately 5% were ≥75 years of age. Multivariate findings suggest that although adults ≥75 years of age are less likely to request a prescription drug following exposure to DTCA (odds ratio [OR] = 0.58; p = 0.032), when they do approach their physicians, they are more likely to receive recommendations for further treatment, with ORs indicating a 250% (OR = 3.507; p = 0.002) increase in the odds of further referral among adults ≥75 years of age.


Overall, results from the study suggest that DTCA influences the patient-doctor relationship and prescription drug acquisition behaviour of patients; however, the nature of the effect of DTCA on older adults is complex. Because future cohorts of older adults may be more comfortable about requesting prescription drugs and the consumer-driven approach to obtaining medical care, understanding the impact of DTCA on older consumers represents an important area for further inquiry.


Prescription Drug Terbinafine Prescription Drug Coverage Weighted Logistic Regression Frequent Consumer 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



No sources of funding were used to assist in the preparation of this study. The author has no conflicts of interest that are directly relevant to the content of this study.

The authors are grateful for public access to the study data through the Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research and for the helpful comments provided by the three anonymous rewiewers. The views presented here belong to the authors, who alone are responsible for any errors or omissions, and who accept all responsibility for the presentation and content. An earlier version of this paper was presented at the 57th Annual Scientific Meeting of the Gerontological Society of America, November 2004, Washington, DC.


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Copyright information

© Adis Data Information BV 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Comm. Med.West Virginia University School of MedicineMorgan-townUSA

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