Understanding Risk Statements Within Drug Injury Advertising: An Abstract
Televised drug injury ads, sponsored by law firms or legal referral networks, identify injured consumers for lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies. They generally consist of warnings to the public about dangerous side effects associated with a particular drug and conclude with a phone number for consumers to call if they have experienced the side effect. Because the drugs discussed in the ads remain available on the market, drug injury ads have the potential to influence the prospective medical decisions of viewers. This research considers how differences in the content of drug injury ads affect consumer perceptions and intentions toward the featured medications. We report the results of two experiments using modified versions of actual drug injury ads.
The first study tested which elements of drug injury ads most strongly affect consumer evaluations and intentions. The results of Study 1 suggested that ads which begin with warnings reduce the likelihood of correct sponsor identification and reduce the likelihood that participants will (re)fill a prescription. Further, elements which made it more obvious that the ad was sponsored by a lawyer increased the likelihood of correct sponsor identification.
In Study 2 we manipulated Sponsor Identification (obvious sponsor vs. non-obvious sponsor) and the vividness of the Risk Statement (more-vivid risk vs. less-vivid risk) in a between-subject design. Our results indicate that when the persuasive intent of the advertisement is less clear (e.g., the sponsor is less obvious), vivid Risk Statements seem especially impactful and can affect intentions toward discontinuing the medications featured in the ads.
An effective remedy for addressing the misleading character of some ads may be to require attorneys to prominently disclose the sponsor, preferably at the start of the ad. Prominent early disclosures about advertising sponsorship would be especially important where the side effects are severe, when the ad includes vivid graphic imagery of medical harms (e.g., an image of a person clutching their chest, or lying in a hospital bed), or where the ad contains strong cautionary language (“warning”).