Ads Featuring 'Drug Facts Box' Help Educate Consumers

Replacement of brief summary with 'facts box' may lead to better informed medication choices
By Rick Ansorge
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, Feb. 17 (HealthDay News) -- Replacing the brief summary in direct-to-consumer ads with a "drug facts box" may result in improved consumer knowledge and judgment about medication benefits and side effects, according to study findings released online Feb. 17 in advance of publication in the Apr. 21 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Lisa M. Schwartz, M.D., of the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in White River Junction, Vt., and colleagues conducted one study in which 231 adults aged 35 to 70 were surveyed after receiving either a symptom drug box in ads for a histamine-2 blocker and a proton-pump inhibitor, or the original brief summary. In a second study, 219 adults aged 35 to 70 were surveyed after receiving either a prevention drug box in ads for a statin or clopidogrel, or the original brief summary.

In the first study, the researchers found dramatic differences between the drug box group and control group in correctly identifying the proton-pump inhibitor as "a lot more effective" than the histamine-2 blocker (70 percent versus 8 percent, respectively) and recognizing that the two drugs have similar side effects (80 percent versus 38 percent, respectively). In the second study, the researchers found that the drug box group was significantly more likely to correctly identify the less than 1 percent absolute risk reduction of death associated with the statin (72 percent versus 9 percent of the control group), and that 65 percent of the control subjects overestimated the benefit by at least a factor of 10.

"Our studies show that the drug facts box helped consumers appreciate how well drugs work, resulted in better choices between drugs for current symptoms, and corrected overestimation of benefit in the setting of drugs for prevention," the authors conclude.

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