In what may be a major step towards reducing the litany of risks presented in DTC television ads, the FDA released their new study that shows that less risks presented is better for consumer comprehension and retention. While saying further study is needed, FDA cleared the way for perhaps eventually changing its guidance on the number of required risks presented. This study, originally posted for public comment in January 2015, saw the results published August 2017 in an online research journal.
FDA studied alternate risk disclosure in three categories for this study. Insomnia, depression, and high cholesterol were tested with reduced risk disclosure. While full details were not yet published the conclusion is that consumers remembered more when less was presented. We all know the current approach is not optimal because consumers get bombarded with so many risks and side effects, both in voice overs and on screen supers.
So here we are 20 years into DTC on television and we get the widely expected answer from the FDA study. While this study is better late than never the FDA says further research is needed. FDA would be wise to issue a new guidance soon giving drug makers the chance to reduce the number of risks and side effects. Consumers could immediately benefit by retaining more of the important information. I am even supportive of keeping the ads just as long with fewer risks discussed. Supers could kept on the screen longer and a slower voice speed could be used for discussing risks.
FDA has lots on its DTC research agenda, but this area of risk presentation is of major importance. Action should be a priority because consumers are overwhelmed with risk information under current requirements. The goal of all involved in DTC should be helping consumers get comprehensible risk information. The shortened risk requirement would help in achieving that goal.