Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Stanford Study Questions Accuracy Of Ads For Body Scans

Date:
December 30, 2004
Source:
Stanford University Medical Center
Summary:
A burgeoning industry that sells full-body scans to detect potential diseases – without a doctor’s referral – is running advertisements that frequently include unsubstantiated claims about the benefits of getting CT and MRI scans, while rarely providing information about the technology’s limitations and risks.

STANFORD, Calif. – A burgeoning industry that sells full-body scans to detect potential diseases – without a doctor’s referral – is running advertisements that frequently include unsubstantiated claims about the benefits of getting CT and MRI scans, while rarely providing information about the technology’s limitations and risks.

That’s the conclusion of researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine who recently analyzed 40 ads from companies that provide medical images directly to consumers, not requiring any consultation with a physician. Their report, published in the Dec. 13 issue of Archives Of Internal Medicine, recommends that guidelines be developed that require these ads to present a more balanced and detailed picture.

“People are capable of being very savvy consumers of medical technology, but the information has to be available to them to allow them to be savvy,” said the study’s lead author, Judy Illes, PhD, senior researcher in the school’s Center for Biomedical Ethics and in the Department of Radiology. “While we can appreciate that in a short telegraphic ad not all the information can be presented, it should at least refer to other sources as well as to more thorough information on the company’s own Web site or in their printed brochures.”

Virtually none of the ads in the study did this.

“In pharmaceutical ads, people are encouraged to ask for their doctors’ advice,” Illes added. “Why is that not the case here?”

There is no question that these screens are beneficial for many people who are presenting symptoms of cardiovascular disease or cancer, helping to detect and pinpoint their illnesses. Doctors almost always refer such people for imaging.

But it is much less clear how useful such screens are for people who are asymptomatic—the apparent target for much of the imaging industry’s advertising, Illes said. Not only may such people be needlessly exposing themselves to more radiation and payments that can exceed $1,000, but there’s also scarce evidence as to whether the images will actually improve their chances of a longer life.

Illes’ team analyzed ads from nine companies that ran from November 2001 to February 2003, as well as brochures obtained from 20 companies. Two team members then rated them in seven categories: 1) references to the technology’s ability to detect diseases; 2) emotion, empowerment and assurance; 3) financial incentives; 4) unsupported statements; 5) appeals based on the popularity of the procedures; 6) statistical information and 7) images.

Messages about the happiness and other positive feelings the scans would provide were found in 100 percent of the ads. Fear-evoking messages and other negative pitches were found in 45 percent. The approaches run the gamut from one ad that has people thanking the company, “You’ve given us peace of mind,” to another that says, “I had a ticking time bomb in my body.”

While the study found that the ads and brochures referred consumers for additional information to other sources at the company, the researchers noted, “Virtually none referred to secondary sources of information such as a primary-care physician, or mentioned risks of having a scan.” The raters also found statements that were scientifically unsupported in one-third of the advertisements and one-fifth of the brochures.

“Direct-to-consumer marketing about new imaging procedures has the potential to enhance consumer choice,” the authors write. “However, if the information presented to consumers overestimates the value of technologies and does not reasonably disclose risks, then choice is constrained, not enhanced.”

The research follows up on earlier work by Illes and colleagues, published in the July 2003 issue of Radiology. That article called attention to the lack of medical profession guidelines for appropriate scanning, while documenting the rapid growth of the direct-to-consumer scanning business. It identified 88 such imaging centers nationwide, and in an interview last year at the time of publication, Illes noted that since the research had been completed, some centers had closed their doors but 48 more centers had opened.

In addition to Illes, the authors of the latest paper are Dylan Kann, in Stanford’s Program in Human Biology; Kim Karetsky and Phillip Letourneau at the Center for Biomedical Ethics; Thomas Raffin, MD, professor of medicine, emeritus, and co-director of the Center for Biomedical Ethics; Barbara Koenig, MD, associate professor of neurology and neurological sciences and a faculty member at the Center for Biomedical Ethics; and Scott Atlas, MD, professor of radiology and senior fellow, by courtesy, at the Hoover Institution.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Stanford University Medical Center. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Stanford University Medical Center. "Stanford Study Questions Accuracy Of Ads For Body Scans." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 30 December 2004. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/12/041219205846.htm>.
Stanford University Medical Center. (2004, December 30). Stanford Study Questions Accuracy Of Ads For Body Scans. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 29, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/12/041219205846.htm
Stanford University Medical Center. "Stanford Study Questions Accuracy Of Ads For Body Scans." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/12/041219205846.htm (accessed July 29, 2014).

Share This




More Health & Medicine News

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Generics Eat Into Pfizer's Sales

Generics Eat Into Pfizer's Sales

Reuters - Business Video Online (July 29, 2014) Pfizer, the world's largest drug maker, cut full-year revenue forecasts because generics could cut into sales of its anti-arthritis drug, Celebrex. Fred Katayama reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Nigeria Ups Ebola Stakes on 1st Death

Nigeria Ups Ebola Stakes on 1st Death

Reuters - Business Video Online (July 29, 2014) Nigerian authorities have shut and quarantined a Lagos hospital where a Liberian man died of the Ebola virus, the first recorded case of the highly-infectious disease in Africa's most populous economy. David Pollard reports Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Running 5 Minutes A Day Might Add Years To Your Life

Running 5 Minutes A Day Might Add Years To Your Life

Newsy (July 29, 2014) According to a new study, just five minutes of running or jogging a day could add years to your life. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ebola Outbreak Poses Little Threat To U.S.: CDC

Ebola Outbreak Poses Little Threat To U.S.: CDC

Newsy (July 29, 2014) The Ebola outbreak in West Africa poses little threat to Americans, according to officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins