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Impact of Pharmaceutical Promotion on the Use of Antidepressant Medication

Two recent articles have been published on the impact of direct-to-consumer advertising (DTCA) on the use of antidepressants, based on research by researchers at Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and funded in part by the Kaiser Family Foundation. These articles include:

  • “Effects of Direct-to-Consumer Advertising on Medication Choice: the Case of Antidepressants,” Journal of Public Policy and Marketing, 23(2):115-127, Fall 2004 (J.M. Donohue and E.R. Berndt). This research found that DTCA for antidepressants has little impact on drug choice, while detailing (promotional visits to physicians) has a substantial impact. The researchers cite other studies that found that DTCA motivates individuals to visit their physicians for previously untreated conditions. The researchers conclude that DTCA appears to affect whether someone receives medication, while detailing affects which medication they receive.
  • Effects of Pharmaceutical Promotion on Adherence to the Treatment Guidelines for Depression,” Medical Care, 42(12):1176-1185, December 2004 (J.M. Donohue, E.R. Berndt, M. Rosenthal, A.M. Epstein, R.G. Frank). This research found that DTCA for antidepressants was associated with an increase in the number of people diagnosed with depression who initiated medication therapy, and a small increase in the number of individuals treated with antidepressants who received the appropriate duration of therapy. Promotion to physicians was not associated with either initiation of treatment or duration of therapy. See the special issue devoted to Mental Health in the December 2004 issue of Medical Care.

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Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Menlo Park, California.