DTC drug advertising ethics: Laboratory for medical marketing

Michael Mackert, Marie Guadagno, Amanda Dell Mabry-Flynn, Lindsay Chilek

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: The aim of this paper is to call for an increased focus on the ethics of direct-to-consumer (DTC) prescription drug advertising. This is important, not only to improve DTC prescription drug advertising, but also to inform DTC advertising of future medical advances. Design/methodology/approach: This conceptual paper discusses two examples of medical advances - personal genetic testing services and surgically implanted medical devices - to explain how investigating the research of DTC prescription drug advertising can set the stage for more ethical advertising of future medical advances. Findings: Specific issues related to health literacy, at-risk populations impacted by health disparities, and medicalization of issues common to aging relate to the DTC advertising of prescription drugs and other medical advances. Creative approaches to investigating these issues in the context of prescription drug advertising can enrich the debate about drug advertising, but also prepare researchers, policymakers, and consumers for future advertising of new medical developments. Originality/value: The value of this paper is its call for increased focus on the ethics of DTC prescription drug advertising, to improve the current marketing environment but also lay the foundation for other healthcare marketing in the future.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)374-390
Number of pages17
JournalInternational Journal of Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Marketing
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 9 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • DTC prescription drug advertising
  • Ethics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy
  • Marketing

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