The National Medical Association has released results of a 2006 survey that overwhelmingly indicate that its members are even more positive toward direct-to-consumer advertising now than they were in 2001.

The NMA, which represents more than 30,000 African-American physicians and 24 medical specialties and was established in 1895, says that the majority of the 300-plus respondents cited a positive benefit for patients, physicians, managed care organisations, government health organisations and pharmaceutical companies, with significant jumps in benefits seen for patients (from 55% to 66%) and physicians (from 42% to 65%).

Specifically the NMA survey noted that the benefits of DTC advertising include making patients aware of treatment options (80%), alerting them to medical problems earlier (64%) and promoting better patient education regarding disease states (58%). DTC ads also trigger patients to seek their doctors' opinions (80%), prompt thoughtful questions (73%), promote better discussions in an office visit (60%, a 12% jump from 2001) and motivate patients to visit their doctors (49%).

However while the report saw the benefits of DTC advertising outweighing its drawbacks, they also identified several concerns. For example, the majority of physicians surveyed (76%) indicated that ads confuse people about the relative risks and benefits of a medication, while 54% said they feel pressure to prescribe a specific medicine because of DTC advertising.

Dr Sandra Gadson, immediate past president of the NMA and report co-author, said that while progress has been made, “there is still room for improvement" and the organisation has issued recommendations to ensure that the needs of the African-American community are being addressed. Specifically it wants to create more DTC ads around chronic disease states that significantly impact minority communities, provide information to health care professionals prior to any new marketing or promotional campaign directed to patients and increase cultural diversity and sensitivity in advertisements.