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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.


This article was originally published in Health Promotion Perspectives, available at doi: 10.15171/hpp.2017.06.

This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License.



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