Traditional drug advertisements involve drug ads and promotional material targeted at healthcare professionals to increase clinician knowledge of advancement in treatment options. On the other hand, direct-to-consumer advertising (DTCA) is pharmaceutical advertising directed at patients to increase their awareness of available drugs and treatment options.
There has been renewed interest in the value of DTCA in recent years, which makes it seem like a modern phenomenon, but the practice dates back to early medical training. The argument in support of DTCA is that targeting consumers instead of healthcare providers gives patients power and agency over their drug consumption (Schwartz & Woloshin, 2016). While this argument has some merits, it is vital that we know the history of drug advertisements in the United States to understand how DTCA has shaped public perception of drugs, drug use, and public health. Only with this understanding can we make a sound judgment on the need for DTCA in present times and the future of healthcare.