September 2016
Volume 57, Issue 12
Open Access
ARVO Annual Meeting Abstract  |   September 2016
Direct-to-Consumer-Advertising in Ophthalmology
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Cherie Fathy
    Vanderbilt School of Medicine, Nashville, Tennessee, United States
  • Sahar Kohanim
    Ophthalmology, Vanderbilt Eye Institute, Nashville, Tennessee, United States
  • Footnotes
    Commercial Relationships   Cherie Fathy, None; Sahar Kohanim, None
  • Footnotes
    Support  None
Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science September 2016, Vol.57, 5571. doi:
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      Cherie Fathy, Sahar Kohanim; Direct-to-Consumer-Advertising in Ophthalmology. Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 2016;57(12):5571.

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      © ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)

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Purpose : $4.3 billion were spent on Direct to Consumer Advertisements (DTCA) in 2010, which reach a significant proportion of consumers and may increase pharmaceutical sales. DTCA for ophthalmologic conditions are present in popular print media; however, it is unknown how common ophthalmologic ads are in print media and what conditions are most commonly covered. Opponents argue that exposure to these ads may increase the likelihood of overprescribing, while proponents believe they may encourage patients to engage in beneficial conversations with their providers. We performed a content analysis to determine the prevalence and content of DTCA for ophthalmologic products in print media.

Methods : 3 consecutive issues of 49 popular magazines were screened over a 3-month period for ophthalmologic advertisements. Each ad was evaluated for the following variables: type of advertisement, ophthalmologic condition covered, effectiveness claims, the presence of advertising appeals, and scientific data. Descriptive statistics were used to analyze the data.

Results : 19 (39%) magazines had ophthalmologic advertisements. 11 unique ads were identified. Most were drug or product-specific. The median number of claims per advertisement was 4 (range, 1-11). The most common appeals addressed effectiveness (n=6) and product’s ease of use (n=5). None addressed curability. Refractive errors (n=5) and Keratitis Sicca (n=3) were the most common ophthalmologic conditions covered. 3 of 11 advertisements were gender-specific, marketing cosmetic contact lenses or cosmetic eye cream for women. Only 5 of the 11 ads referenced research studies and 5 encouraged patients to seek more information from providers. None of the ads provided data in the form of tables or figures. Only 2 ads provided a risk profile for their products, which were in smaller font and required a higher level of reading comprehension. All ads provided patient support for more information, most commonly through the Internet.

Conclusions : DTCA for ophthalmologic conditions are present in popular print media, especially those targeting women. Our results suggest that marketing is limited to a few disorders in ophthalmology, which may not accurately reflect the most common ocular conditions in the United States. Ads often encourage patients to request prescriptions or more information from their providers. Further research is needed on the quality of information of these advertisements and their effect on the patient-physician relationship.

This is an abstract that was submitted for the 2016 ARVO Annual Meeting, held in Seattle, Wash., May 1-5, 2016.


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