Adolescent health

March 2011


Disease awareness advertising

Women’s intentions following exposure

Volume 40, No.3, March 2011 Pages 143-147

Danika Hall

Sandra C Jones

Don Iverson


In Australia, where direct to consumer advertising of prescription medicines is prohibited, pharmaceutical companies can sponsor disease awareness advertising targeting consumers. This study examined the impact of disease awareness advertising exposure on older women’s reported behavioural intentions.


Women were approached in a shopping centre and randomly assigned mock advertisements for two health conditions. Disease information and sponsors were manipulated.


Two hundred and forty-one women responded to 466 advertisements. Almost half reported an intention to ask their doctor for a prescription or referral as a result of seeing the advertisement, but more reported they would talk to their doctor and ask about treatments and tests. Participants were more likely to report an intention to ask for prescriptions if they perceived the health condition to be severe and themselves susceptible or if they had viewed advertisements containing limited information on the disease.


Disease awareness advertising may stimulate demand for prescription medicine products. This has serious implications for general practitioners and regulators.

There is growing concern from advisory and advocacy groups in Australia, as well as in other countries, regarding the influence of the pharmaceutical industry on the prescribing habits of doctors.1,2 Concern has centred around marketing practices that directly influence doctors’ prescribing behaviour,3,4 as well as pharmaceutical promotions that directly target consumers.5,6

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