Trends in exposure to televised prescription drug advertising, 2003-2011

Rachel Kornfield*, G. Caleb Alexander, Dima M. Qato, Yoonsang Kim, Jan D. Hirsch, Sherry L. Emery

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Introduction TV accounts for more than half of pharmaceutical direct-to-consumer advertising (DTCA) spending in the U.S. The purpose of this study is to quantify average household exposure to branded and non-branded (help-seeking) televised prescription drug advertisements and describe variation over time and according to medication indication and geography. Methods In 2013, Nielsen TV ratings were compiled for prescription pharmaceutical advertising that aired between 2003 and 2011 for the top 75 U.S. media markets. All advertisements were coded as branded or help-seeking. Advertisements were further coded for one of eight prevalent indications (allergies, arthritis, asthma, erectile dysfunction, high cholesterol, smoking cessation, depression, and sleep disorder) or as "other." Results Televised DTCA exposure increased from 2003 to 2007 and then declined 43% by 2011, to 111 monthly prescription drug advertisements per household. The examined indications were associated with varying amounts and patterns of exposure, with greatest declines among medications for allergies and sleep disorders. Help-seeking advertisements comprised 10% of total exposure, with substantial variation by indication. Conclusions Considerations of DTCA's effects on health care should take into account the shifting concentration of advertising across indications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)575-579
Number of pages5
JournalAmerican Journal of Preventive Medicine
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Epidemiology


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