Patients requesting specific medications can have a
profound effect on physicians prescribing medications for major depression, according to a new study, led
by researchers at the UC Davis School of Medicine and Medical Center, published in the April 27 edition
of the Journal of the American Medical Association.
"The short message for patients is to be careful of what you ask for, because you probably will
get it," said Richard L. Kravitz, the study's lead author and director of the UC Davis Center for
Health Services Research in Primary Care. "That could be a good thing for those who really need medication,
but it could be a bad thing for those on the margin. For this latter group, there might be other options
that could be just as effective and possibly safer, such as watchful waiting and non-drug therapies."
According to the study, spending on direct-to-consumer advertising of prescription drugs in the United
States totaled $3.2 billion in 2003. Critics charge that these advertisements lead to overprescribing
of unnecessary, expensive and potentially harmful medications, while proponents counter that they can
serve a useful educational function and help avert underuse of effective treatments for conditions that
may be poorly recognized, highly stigmatized, or both.