FDA proposes studies on deceptive ads to gauge doc and patient perceptiveness

The FDA is proposing two studies to look at the ability of doctors and patients to determine misleading info in drug ads.

Can doctors and patients suss out misleading information in drug ads? That’s what the FDA wants to find out. In a proposed pair of studies, the agency will look at healthcare providers' and patients' responses to determine their ability to detect different levels and types of deception.

The proposal was posted in the Federal Register on Jan. 4 and is open for public comment until March 6, an FDA spokeswoman told FiercePharma via email.

What's the need for such a study? As the proposal laid out, “If unable to identify deceptive promotion, consumers may ask their HCPs to prescribe specific drugs that they would not otherwise request. Likewise, HCPs unable to identify deceptive promotion may prescribe specific drugs that they would not otherwise prescribe.”

The proposal also mentions that the FDA’s Bad Ad program already exists for physicians to report false or misleading ads, and it raises the possibility of creating a similar program that would allow consumers to report deceptive ones. Outside reporting is useful, the FDA noted, since its investigator resources are far outweighed by the amount of advertising and promotional materials staffers need to monitor.

The first study will use mock ads for chronic pain drugs to test the ability of docs and chronic pain patients to discern false information at varying levels of misinformation by altering the number of deceptive claims in ads. The second study will then use obesity drugs to gauge HCP and obese patients' ability to detect either implicitly or explicitly false drug info.

The FDA plans to hire a professional firm to create the mock chronic pain and obesity drug websites that will be used for the testing.

The proposed studies are the latest in a series of recent FDA-suggested investigations into drug advertising, including one on the use of animated characters in drug ads and a study on one-click links in social media ads.