Direct-to-Consumer Advertising on Public Health Outcomes: Can Viagra Advertising Make More Babies?
68 Pages Posted: 11 Apr 2017 Last revised: 30 Apr 2019
Date Written: April 27, 2019
Although product advertising has been widely studied and understood in relation to the consumer’s purchase decision, advertising may also have unintended but important societal and economic consequences. In this paper, we examine a public health outcome—birth rate—associated with advertisements for erectile dysfunction (ED) drugs. Since the United States loosened regulation on direct-to-consumer television advertising for prescription drugs in 1997, ED drug makers have consistently been top spenders. By comparing advertising data with multiple birth data sets (patient-level hospital data from Massachusetts between 2001 and 2010 and micro birth certificate data from the U.S. between 2000 and 2004), we demonstrated that increased ED drug television advertising leads to a higher birth rate. According to our results, which are robust with respect to different functional forms and falsification tests, a 1% increase in ED drug advertising contributed to an increase of 0.04-0.08% of total births. Our findings suggest that beyond the customer purchase decision, advertising can have important public health outcomes, with resulting implications for policy formulation and managerial decision-making.
JEL Classification: J13, L82, M38, M37, I18
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation