Examining the role of news coverage in the dissemination of FDA prescription drug warnings

Author/Creator ORCID




School of Public Policy


Public Policy

Citation of Original Publication


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This thesis explores the potential role of news media coverage about U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warnings for prescription drugs in influencing patient/prescriber behavior. It extends previous literature about the impacts of the FDA warnings on antidepressants and other medication utilization in two ways. First, previous studies did not directly consider possible impacts of news coverage of these warnings on consumer behavior. This neglect of news coverage is surprising in light of an extensive communications literature demonstrating the broad influence of such lay information transmissions on human behavior, and despite concerns that errant or incomplete news coverage frequently yields unintended consequences (e.g., stopping medications rather than better patient monitoring) of targeted FDA recommendations. Second, this study used time-series data about four FDA warnings representing distinct therapeutic treatment classes for depression, smoking addiction, asthma and allergies, and diabetes. Using a variety of statistical models, this work found very small, though significant, evidence suggesting that news coverage surrounding FDA prescription drug warnings can have subtle impacts on down-stream doctor and consumer behavior. The results of this work should be of direct interest to those concerned with the dissemination of health communication messages and other technical news relevant to consumers.