A survey of members of the National Medical Association (NMA), an African-American physicians’ group, suggests a largely positive impression of DTC advertising on the part of black doctors but flags fears about ads overstating efficacy, presenting confusing risk/benefit information and pressuring them to prescribe advertised drugs.

The survey of 322 NMA members, supported by Pfizer, found perceptions of DTC much improved over 2001, when the organization last canvassed members on the topic.

Those seeing positive benefits to patients from DTC rose from 55% to 66% over those five years, while those reporting positive benefits to physicians from DTC jumped from 42% to 65%.
Specifically, 80% of respondents said DTC makes patients aware of treatment options, while 64% said ads alert them to problems earlier and 58% said consumer ads promote better patient education regarding disease states.

Nearly half of the doctors (45%) said ads are a beneficial educational tool for patients in underserved communities.

Respondents felt ads improve the patient-physician dialogue by triggering patients to seek their doctors’ opinions (80%), prompting thoughtful questions (73%), promoting better discussions in office visits (60%) and motivating patients to visit their doctors (49%).

On the downside, more than three-fourths of NMA members surveyed said ads make people think meds work better than they do (76%) and confuses people about the relative risks and benefits of drugs (76%), while two-thirds (65%) said ads cause patients to second-guess diagnoses and 54% said they feel pressured to prescribe particular drugs because of ads.

The NMA, which boasts 30,000 members, recommends more disease awareness advertising around chronic ailments that plague minority communities, along with more advertising in African-American media and greater cultural diversity and sensitivity in ads.