Effect of Direct-to-Consumer Advertising on Statin Use in the United States

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Abstract

Importance:

The value of direct-to-consumer advertising (DTCA) of prescription drugs is widely debated, as is the effect of DTCA on prescription sales and health care utilization.

Objective:

We examined the association between DTCA intensity for statin medications and prescription sales and cholesterol-related health care utilization.

Design, Setting, and Participants:

We conducted an ecological study for 75 designated market areas from 2005 to 2009 in the United States using linked data regarding televised DTCA volume, non-DTCA marketing and promotion, retail, mail order and long-term care prescription drug sales, prescription drug and ambulatory care health care utilization, and contextual factors such as health care density and socioeconomic status. Main outcomes and measures were volume of sales, number of dispensed prescriptions, and high cholesterol-related outpatient visits. Analyses were conducted in 2016.

Results:

The intensity of rosuvastatin and atorvastatin ad exposures per household varied substantially across designated market areas. After adjustment for socioeconomic, demographic, and clinical characteristics, each 100-unit increase in advertisement viewership was associated with a 2.22% [95% confidence interval (CI), 0.30%–4.19%] increase in statin sales. Similar patterns were observed between DTCA and statin dispensing among the commercially insured. DTCA was associated with increases in high cholesterol-related outpatient visits among adults 18–45 years of age (3.15% increase in visits per 100-unit increase in viewership, 95% CI, 0.98%–5.37%) but not among those 46–65 years of age (0.51%, 95% CI, −1.49% to 2.55%).

Conclusion:

DTCA for statins is associated with increases in statin utilization and hyperlipidemia-related outpatient visits, especially for young adults.

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