Background: Although prescriptions are dispensed at discretion of medical professionals, many pharmaceutical companies use direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertising to increase sales. Over-the- counter (OTC) medications are similarly marketed.
Methods: We examined the content of advertisements in 38 issues of 9 popular US women’s fashion magazines. We evaluated target audience, health condition, product availability, message appeal, target to females, and mention of potential side effects and benefits.
Results: Sixty total medication advertisements were identified, 58.3% (95% CI: 45.8, 70.8) for prescription products. In magazines targeted to non-Hispanic Whites, >65% of advertisements were for OTC medications whereas 80% (95% CI: 66.7, 94.5) of advertisements found in Black/Latina magazines were for prescription medications. The rational appeal was used most commonly in non-Hispanic White magazines (75.9%; 95% CI: 60.3, 91.5). Emotional appeal was featured more often in prescription advertisements magazines (60.0; 95% CI:43.8, 76.2) compared to OTC (8.0; 95% CI: -2.6, 18.6).
Conclusion: Although emotional appeal may be effective for selling medication to women, it often does not completely inform consumers of potential risks.