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Survey: Black doctors say consumer ads improve doctor-patient relationships

March 22, 2007 by  
Filed under Health (March 12, 2007) The National Medical Association (NMA) has released results of a membership survey that overwhelmingly indicate that NMA physicians are even more positive toward direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertising now than they were in 2001. Further, NMA physicians said that consumer-focused advertising of prescription medications provides substantial educational benefits and enriches the doctor-patient dialogue.

Respondents also expressed specific concerns about the advertisements, prompting the NMA to call for changes to consumer advertising practices to increase the benefits of DTC advertising for minority populations. The survey comes at a critical juncture in the DTC advertising debate; the pharmaceutical industry has been implementing voluntary improvements to its consumer advertising practices and legislators are considering imposing stringent regulations.

“Since its inception, the NMA has advocated for the elimination of health disparities and championed optimal health practices for African Americans and other underserved populations,” said Dr. Albert Morris, NMA president. “Education is key to achieving both of those goals and, according to our members, consumer advertising for prescription medicines helps educate patients. “

In 2001, the NMA issued a landmark study that gauged African-American physicians’ perceptions of DTC advertising, its impact on the doctor-patient relationship and, perhaps most importantly, its role in educating underserved populations about critical health issues and potential treatments. This 2006 survey builds on the first, gauging not only current perceptions, but also how the community’s understanding of DTC advertising has changed since 2001.

Notably, the percentage of respondents who perceived a positive benefit from DTC advertising grew from 2001 to 2006, while the percentage who were “unsure” waned. The majority of respondents cited a positive benefit for patients, physicians, managed care organizations, government health organizations and pharmaceutical companies, with significant jumps in benefits seen for patients (from 55% to 66%) and physicians (from 42% to 65%).

The NMA has issued recommendations for improvements to DTC advertising to ensure that the needs of the African-American community are being addressed. The NMA calls upon the pharmaceutical industry to:

  –  Create more DTC ads around chronic disease states that significantly impact minority communities;
  –  Provide information to health care professionals prior to any new marketing or promotional campaign directed to patients;
  –  Commit to publicizing its prescription payment assistance programs to minority communities in DTC advertising;
  –  Increase the presence of DTC ads in traditionally African-American outlets to reflect a balanced presence in the mass media;
  –  Increase cultural diversity and sensitivity in its ads; and
  –  Create ads that encourage patients to be partners in their health care.

In addition to working with the pharmaceutical industry to consider the interests of African-American physicians and patients relating to DTC advertising, the NMA will provide continued input and expertise to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and other governmental agencies in reference to DTC advertisements.

The NMA conducted this representative survey of 322 member physicians during its 2006 Annual Convention in Dallas. The full survey report as published in the March issue of the Journal of the National Medical Association was also submitted to the FDA’s DTC advertising docket.

For more information on the report, visit: This survey was made possible through an unrestricted educational support grant issued by Pfizer Inc.

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