There is widespread public support for removing televised prescription drug ads, says 2016 telephone survey of 1,006 U.S. adults.1

In November 2015, the American Medical Association (AMA) called for a ban on direct-to-consumer advertising of prescription drugs and medical devices, including television advertisements.2 According to the AMA, member physicians are concerned that a growing proliferation of ads is driving demand for expensive treatments, despite the clinical effectiveness of less costly alternatives.

‘Paltry and Potentially Misleading’

A sea change in medicine emphasizes shared decision-making, notes Adrienne Faerber, PhD, instructor at The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy & Clinical Practice in Hanover, NH.

“The old argument that drugs are complicated — and that patients can’t understand them and must rely on the advice of their doctors — doesn’t work in this new environment,” she says.

Patients clearly want information about the drugs they’re taking, she says. While some consumers are using other sources of high-quality drug information, many get their information solely from televised ads. “Advertising is, unfortunately, a common way that patients are connecting with the brands of drugs they’re taking,” says Faerber.

For the small number of viewers who might actually need the drug, the information in the advertisement is “paltry and potentially misleading,” she says. “Unfortunately, I don’t expect prescription drug ads to leave television any time soon.”

Previous research has shown that shown that drug advertising poorly informs patients, and uses sophisticated techniques to persuade patients to take drugs they may not need.2

Faerber expects consumers to become increasingly dissatisfied with drug advertising. “My hope is there will be increasing skepticism about the advertised claims and resources where consumers can fact-check drug ads,” she says.


  1. Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Americans’ attitudes about changing current prescription drug & medical device regulation citation.May 2016.
  2. American Medical Association. AMA Calls for Ban on Direct to Consumer Advertising of Prescription Drugs and Medical Devices. November 17, 2015,
  3. Faerber AE, Kreling DH. Content analysis of false and misleading claims in television advertising for prescription and nonprescription drugs. J Gen Intern Med 2014; 29(1):110–118.


  • Adrienne Faerber, PhD, Instructor, The Dartmouth Institute, Hanover, NH. Email: