Attorneys sponsor television advertisements that include repeated warnings about adverse drug events to solicit consumers for lawsuits against drug manufacturers. The relationship between such advertising, safety actions by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and healthcare use is unknown.Objectives
To investigate the relationship between attorney advertising, FDA actions, and prescription drug claims.Methods
The study examined total users per month and prescription rates for seven drugs with substantial attorney advertising volume and FDA or other safety interventions during 2009. Segmented regression analysis was used to detect pre-intervention trends, post-intervention level changes, and changes in post-intervention trends relative to the pre-intervention trends in the use of these seven drugs, using advertising volume, media hits, and the number of Medicare enrollees as covariates. Data for these variables were obtained from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Kantar Media, and LexisNexis.Results
Several types of safety actions were associated with reductions in drug users and/or prescription rates, particularly for fentanyl, varenicline, and paroxetine. In most cases, attorney advertising volume rose in conjunction with major safety actions. Attorney advertising volume was positively correlated with prescription rates in five of seven drugs, likely because advertising volume began rising before safety actions, when prescription rates were still increasing. On the other hand, attorney advertising had mixed associations with the number of users per month.Conclusion
Regulatory and safety actions likely reduced the number of users and/or prescription rates for some drugs. Attorneys may have strategically chosen to begin advertising adverse drug events prior to major safety actions, but we found little evidence that attorney advertising reduced drug use. Further research is needed to better understand how consumers and physicians respond to attorney advertising.