A cross-media analysis of educational information content of advertisements for over-the-counter medicines in a Nigerian urban setting

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Abstract

Objective

To analyse the educational information content of adverts for over-the-counter (OTC) medicines on radio, television and billboards in a Nigerian urban setting.

Method

A cross-sectional coding of educational information content of adverts for OTC medicines broadcast on radio and television and shown on billboards in a Nigerian urban setting within a 3-month study period. Two coders independently assessed 1492 adverts comprising 49 brands for information on targeted medical conditions and OTC medicines advertised as treatment.

Results

Inter-rater reliability among the two coders, determined with Cohen's Kappa, was 0.81 (95% confidence interval, 0.77-0.90). Analgesics, multi-vitamins/hematinics and anti-malarial drugs were the most frequently advertised OTC drug classes on all media. Symptoms and underlying cause/risk factors of targeted medical conditions were contained in a minority of adverts. The majority (81.5-100%) of the adverts projected the name of the medical condition for which the OTC medicines were advertised, whereas the symptoms and underlying cause/risk factors of these medical conditions were contained in only a minority of adverts. Name and identification features were the most frequently projected educational information (100%) pertaining to OTC medicines in advertised treatments. Information on the time to onset of action was contained in 40-80% of adverts, but this information was provided with the use of qualitative words such as fast and rapid. Information on dose, frequency, duration, side effects and precautions were provided in a minority of adverts in all media. Adverts for OTC medicines on television had the highest combined educational information scores of 5.0, followed by billboards (4.1) and radio (3.0). The combined educational information scores of adverts for OTC medicines on the three media fell short of the maximum obtainable score of 11. Adverts for anti-malarial drugs (100%) and OTC analgesics projected inaccurate information with regards to the efficacy of the advertised medicines.

Conclusion

The majority of adverts for OTC medicines on radio, television and billboards in a Nigerian urban setting contained insufficient educational information to guide informed drug purchase and rational use of medicines during self-medication. Promotional efforts appeared focused on high consumer awareness of the targeted medical conditions and the name/identification of the OTC medicines advertised as treatments. This may further worsen the well-documented irrational use of medicines in Nigeria.

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