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Media Memo: Antidepressant Advertisement Research

TO: News/Assignment Editors

FROM: Judy Berthiaume, director, UW-Eau Claire News Bureau

DATE: April 26, 2005

SUBJECT: Antidepressant Advertisement Research

A study published this week in the current issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association reports that primary care doctors are easily convinced to prescribe antidepressants — whether a patient needs them or not — when the patient mentions having seen television advertisements for the drugs.

The study, whose lead author is a professor of medicine at UC Davis, found that doctors were more likely to prescribe antidepressants to patients who ask for them by name than to patients with depressive symptoms who don't ask for the medication.

Previous research done by UW-Eau Claire psychology professors Bill Frankenberger and Blaine Peden relates to this advertisement phenomenon. Their research found that antidepressant medication advertisements created by pharmaceutical companies have a significant impact on self-reported depressive symptoms and feelings in college students. Students who viewed the ads were significantly more likely to view themselves as depressed, and were more likely to recommend medications for themselves and/or their friends.

Peden and several student researchers are now trying to determine whether providing students with scientific information about the side effects of the medications will influence their perceptions of self-depression and their willingness to recommend medications to their friends.

The UW-Eau Claire research is significant because pharmaceutical companies provide a large amount of information to the public via advertisements so it's important to understand the impact of the information that they disseminate.

Dr. Frankenberger and Dr. Peden are available to discuss their research relating to antidepressant advertising and its impact on college students. You can reach Dr. Frankenberger at (715) 836-5020 or frankewr@uwec.edu, and you can reach Dr. Peden at (715) 836-3481.

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