CONVEYING UNCERTAINTY ABOUT PRICE SAVINGS AND RISK AND EFFICACY IN COMPARATIVE ADVERTISING FOR PRESCRIPTION DRUGS
Method(s): Using an experiment with 1,490 consumers self-identified with diabetes, we compared participants who saw a context statement in a fictitious (but professionally developed) price comparison DTC drug ad with participants who did not. We also included a control group that saw a DTC ad without the price-comparison or context statements.
Result(s): A majority of participants (59% of those assigned to see it) did not accurately report seeing the context statement. This pattern emerged despite the context statement being presented prominently below the price claim in the top half of the ad, linked with an asterisk.
We also assessed perceptions of participants who did recognize the presence of the context statement. Among confirmed exposure participants, a one-way ANOVA revealed a main effect of condition on perceptions of whether Veridan (the fictitious drug advertised) and Lyrica (the actual drug to which Veridan was compared) are interchangeable, F(2, 899) = 9.57, p<.001. Planned contrasts revealed that consumers seeing the context statement were more likely to agree the ad communicated uncertainty regarding comparative risk and efficacy than consumers seeing the comparison without context statement (M =4.48 vs. 4.07, p<.002).
The context statement also noted price savings presented may not reflect actual savings by consumers or third-party payers. Among confirmed exposure participants, those seeing the context statement rated the price comparison as less accurate (M = 4.44, SD = 1.20) than those seeing the comparison without the context statement (M = 4.79, SD = 1.19), F(1, 472) = 9.351, p<.01.
Conclusion(s): When people read a context statement, they demonstrate intended uncertainty about risks, efficacy, and savings. Despite its prominence and placement, however, the majority did not notice the statement. Although results support the potential for developing comprehensible context statements to clarify price comparisons, consumer attention may limit their effectiveness.
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