A Spoonful of Distraction Helps the Drug Ads Sell More

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration will study whether direct-to-consumer drug ads "distract consumers from carefully considering and encoding risk information," reports AP. The agency will look at "how images used in ads affect consumers" and "how text on the screen can focus or divert attention from audio warnings." The FDA is concerned that "relaxing, upbeat images" and "text directing viewers to company Web sites or magazine advertisements" may detract from "important audio about side effects." FDA monitoring of drug ads has drastically decreased, according to a new study in the New England Journal of Medicine. The agency issued 21 citations in 2006, compared to 142 sent in 1997. During that time, drug industry spending on direct-to-consumer ads increased 330 percent, to $29.9 billion in 2005, according to the study. The industry group Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America defends drug ads as educational, and promotes voluntary ad guidelines in an attempt to avoid more stringent or active regulation.