Purpose – This study aims to investigate pharmaceutical company-sponsored disease information websites that are created and operated by pharmaceutical companies. Without clear indication of the site ownership, these websites look like non-advertising health information websites. Consumers’ responses to pharmaceutical company-sponsored disease information websites were examined in comparison to their responses to typical direct-to-consumer (DTC) drug brand websites. Design/methodology/approach – A field experiment was conducted with a representative sample of US adults. Study subjects were randomly assigned to one of three live websites: pharmaceutical company-sponsored disease information website; DTC brand website with a high level of trust cues; and DTC brand website with a low level of trust cues. After viewing the assigned websites, participants completed an online questionnaire. The questionnaire included measurements for perceived website trust, attitude toward the website, intention to use information, perceived importance of prescription drug information, perceived health, prescription drug use, disposition to trust, prior experience with the website and demographic information. Findings – The pharmaceutical company-sponsored disease information website generated higher website trust and more positive attitude and information use intention than the DTC drug brand websites. The results suggest that company-sponsored disease information websites may present some ethical issues related to website identity information transparency, which seems to inhibit consumers’ persuasion knowledge activation and proper coping responses. Because such websites look like non-advertising health information websites, consumers tend to evaluate them more positively and place higher trust in them than typical DTC drug brand websites with clear advertiser identification. Originality/value – This is the first study examining pharmaceutical company-sponsored disease information websites, a relatively new form of covert DTC online advertising with potential ethical concerns due to the site identity transparency issues. This study’s findings suggest that consumers are likely to be more trusting and receptive of information presented in websites taking the form of a non-advertising health information website than in DTC brand websites.
|Original language||English (US)|
|Number of pages||24|
|Journal||International Journal of Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Marketing|
|State||Published - Nov 2 2015|
- DTC brand websites
- DTC prescription drug advertising
- Online health information sources