Direct-to-Consumer Prescription Drug Websites: The Moderating Roles of Perceived Risk and Product Category Knowledge

Yam B. Limbu, Bruce A. Huhmann

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


A direct-to-consumer website (DTCW) is defined as a brand-sponsored website that offers prescription drug information to the general public. As such, it is a promotional effort by a pharmaceutical firm, similar to direct-to-consumer advertising in magazines or on television. Increasingly, Americans search online for prescription drug information; 33% of American adults and 45% of Internet users have looked online for drug information (Fox and Jones 2009). Thus, pharmaceutical firms are putting enormous resources into developing brand-specific websites. Also, DTCW has become a vital and ideal source of drug and health information for consumers (Davis 2010). With the growth of DTCWs, several concerns regarding the efficacy of these sites have been raised. For example, studies show that information presented in a DTCW is not highly reliable (e.g., Huh, DeLorme, and Reid 2005). However, past studies largely focused on the website design and its features. Prescription drug information is also disseminated by non-commercial third-party websites. For example, PubMed Health’s website, produced by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, offers exhaustive facts about drugs. This website often appears near the top of search engine results for most prescription medications. Yet, despite the growing importance of DTCWs, relatively little is known about differences in consumers’ evaluation of pharmaceutical brands and information found on DTCW versus third-party websites. It is unclear whether a non-commercial third-party website produces more favorable consumer evaluations than a company-sponsored DTCW. In addition, research has yet to examine the influence of consumer characteristics (e.g., risk perception and product knowledge) in such evaluation. Thus, the current research attempts to address these issues by examining consumers’ evaluations of a third-party versus a brand-sponsored website. It also investigates the moderating effects of perceived risk and product category knowledge.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationDevelopments in Marketing Science
Subtitle of host publicationProceedings of the Academy of Marketing Science
PublisherSpringer Nature
Number of pages4
StatePublished - 2016

Publication series

NameDevelopments in Marketing Science: Proceedings of the Academy of Marketing Science
ISSN (Print)2363-6165
ISSN (Electronic)2363-6173


  • Brand Attitude
  • Consumer Research
  • Information Credibility
  • Pharmaceutical Firm
  • Prescription Drug Information


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