To help guide its policy on direct-to-consumer (DTC) prescription drug advertising, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) plans to conduct two telephone surveys of patients and doctors about how the ads affected them.

The new effort is a follow-up to a patient survey conducted in 1999, the year that the FDA's guidance on consumer-directed broadcast advertisements was finalized.

The agency has relaxed is position on DTC advertising since the 1997 departure of David Kessler,MD, who spoke out against the practice during his time as FDA commissioner. Nonetheless, it is appaarent that the FDA considers addressing prescription drug advertising to consumers rather than physicians problematical.

The agency hopes to gain some relevant information through the two new telephone surveys, which will gather data from 775 adults who have seen a healthcare professional within the prior 3 months, and 500 office-based physicians who spend at least half their work time providing patient care.

The patient survey will ask about usage of prescription drugs, and attitudes toward direct advertising. The physician survey will ask about what happens when patients, having seen direct-to-consumer advertising, ask physicians about drugs; about patients' perceived benefits of advertised drugs; and about physicians' opinions about direct-to-consumer advertising.

The FDA is seeking feedback on the planned information collection; written or electronic comments are due within 60 days of the Federal Register publication, which was Friday, March 16.