Promoting Wellness or Waste? Evidence from Antidepressant Advertising

56 Pages Posted: 6 Mar 2018 Last revised: 30 Dec 2018

See all articles by Bradley Shapiro

Bradley Shapiro

University of Chicago - Marketing Management

Date Written: December 29, 2018


Direct-to-Consumer Advertising (DTCA) of prescription drugs is controversial. Even if drugs are efficacious, advertising may drive people to be prescribed for whom treatment will be ineffective. Leveraging plausibly exogenous variation in advertising driven by the borders of television markets, this paper provides the first quasi-experimental measurement of the effect of DTCA on ex-post well-being. In particular, antidepressant advertising decreases work absenteeism, a primary outcome associated with depression. The wage benefit of a 10% increase in advertising is about $770 million. This labor supply effect co-occurs at the individual level with an incremental $32 million in new initiations of antidepressant treatment. Keywords: Advertising, Selection, Pharmaceuticals, Labor Supply.

Keywords: Advertising, DTCA, Labor Supply, Health, Selection

JEL Classification: M31, M37, M38, H23, I11, I12, I18, L51, J22, J24, M54

Suggested Citation

Shapiro, Bradley, Promoting Wellness or Waste? Evidence from Antidepressant Advertising (December 29, 2018). Becker Friedman Institute for Research in Economics Working Paper No. 2018-14. Available at SSRN: or

Bradley Shapiro (Contact Author)

University of Chicago - Marketing Management ( email )

Chicago, IL 60637
United States


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