R William Soller, Mark Mulvaney, Lorie Rice, Michael J Negerete



There is discordance in how U.S. consumers receive nonprescription and prescription drug warnings in advertising. While video and print advertising of prescription medicines must contain warnings, advertisements for nonprescription medicines do not. To assess health professional views of this discordance, we surveyed California licensed pharmacists and pharmacy students using an online questionnaire in relation to their support for warnings in nonprescription drug print advertising and related matters.


1,697 licensed pharmacists of the California Pharmacist Foundation and pharmacy students attending the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) School of Pharmacy were approached by email, yielding 500 survey starts and 421 completers. The core research questions centered on determining whether respondents: (a) support warnings in nonprescription drug print advertising; (b) believe such warnings would aid consumer self-selection of nonprescription medications; (c) support use of print advertising warnings on acetaminophen, aspirin, ibuprofen, nasal decongestants and psyllium as examples, and formatting of such warnings.


The majority of respondents were women with more than seven years in community practice who daily counseled patients on OTC medications. Sixty percent of the complete responses were from licensed pharmacists; 40% from student pharmacists. The large majority of respondents (>96%) support warnings in print ads for nonprescription medicines, while a smaller proportion (53%) report a belief that such warnings would aid consumer self-selection of OTC medicines. The results support placing boxed warnings for selected nonprescription drugs in print advertising in a format that allows proximity to the effectiveness claim, linkage of the main claim to the warning by an asterisk, and at a required type-size.


Licensed pharmacists and student pharmacists favor warnings in OTC print advertising. These results have implications for a new regulatory approaches to nonprescription drug advertising that would bring regulatory requirements for warnings in OTC advertising into conceptual conformance with current regulatory practices for warnings in prescription medicines advertising.

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