UNC Charlotte Public Policy Researchers Suggest Increased Regulation on Pharmaceutical Ads

Friday, April 12, 2019

by Ercument Camadan, Public Policy PhD Program

and Tara Gomez, Communications Masters Program


Educating consumers about health issues is crucial to decreasing the level of individual health problems. Direct-to-consumer pharmaceutical advertising is one effective way to educate people about health issues. In 2009, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) published recommendations for ways to reach disadvantaged populations with direct-to-consumer advertising. According to Public Policy alumnus Dr. Stephany De Scisciolo (Ph.D. 2014) and faculty member Dr. Teresa Scheid, the FDA recommendations had no impact on the direct-to-consumer advertising in White-oriented versus Black-oriented magazines.


Dr. Scheid and Dr. De Scisciolo analyzed 1,090 ads from 237 magazine issues to determine whether the FDA recommendations altered the frequency and types of drugs advertised. “The results were disappointing from a health perspective view,” says Dr. Scheid, a professor of Sociology with joint appointments in the Public Policy Program and Health Services Research. Their recently published book Reducing Race Differences in Direct-to-Consumer Pharmaceutical Advertising is based on the PhD dissertation of Dr. De Scisciolo and shows that Black-oriented magazines had far-fewer advertisements for drugs that are used to treat life-threatening conditions even after the 2009 FDA recommendations.


As Vice President of Knowledge, Impact, & Strategy at Enterprise Community Partners, Inc., Dr. De Scisciolo leads a team of highly trained research, data, and knowledge specialists. Through her work with Enterprise’s Health and Housing initiative, she seeks out research opportunities and develops tools for data collection. Understanding the importance of health policy, she dedicates her work to finding solutions to health issues related to the built environment.


Both Dr. Scheid and Dr. De Scisciolo conclude that recommendations alone are not enough to increase the overall value of direct-to-consumer advertising: “Regulatory action is necessary to ensure that advertising-campaigns of pharmaceutical companies not only promote their products but also positively impact the health outcomes of the readers of their ads. Unfortunately, the disparities between White-oriented and Black-oriented magazines are unchanged.” (De Scisciolo and Scheid 2018: vii)