The adverse effect of doctors’ skepticism toward prescription drugs

Devon S. Johnson, Breagin K. Riley, Shintaro Sato

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Purpose: This study examines the use of high-expertise sources such as doctors to sell dietary supplements and the use of skeptical statements toward approved drugs in the act of selling dietary supplements. Design/methodology/approach: The research questions are addressed by means of a scenario experiment that manipulated two independent variables: expertise (high- vs low-expertise) and skepticism toward prescription drugs (present vs absent). Findings: Surprisingly, skeptical statements from a low-expertise source toward a prescription drug made while selling dietary supplements was found to have an insignificant effect on selling effectiveness (willingness to recommend and perceived product effectiveness). However, when a high-expertise source (doctor) did the same, selling effectiveness was reduced. Research limitations/implications: The paper identifies a boundary condition for competitive selling claims of dietary supplements. Doctors are likely to get away with claims regarding the efficacy of dietary supplements until they criticize a more credible prescription drug in favor of supplements. Practical implications: Claims made by a low-expertise sources and high-expertise sources in the act of selling dietary supplements must be carefully considered. Conventional wisdom tactics may be ineffective. Originality/value: This paper uniquely demonstrates the role of competitive skepticism at different levels of expertise. The findings of this study suggest that managers, in especially the multi-level marketing industry, should reconsider some of their selling tactics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)222-234
Number of pages13
JournalInternational Journal of Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Marketing
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2017


  • Competitive selling
  • Dietary supplements
  • Doctors
  • Multi-level marketing
  • Scepticism


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