Analysis of written advertising material distributed through community pharmacies in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

  • Sinaa A. Al-Aqeel
  • Jawza F. Al-Sabhan
  • Noha Y. Sultan
Keywords: Advertising as Topic, Drug Industry, Pharmacies, Pharmacists, Saudi Arabia


Background: Advertising is a crucial component of pharmaceutical industry promotion. Research indicates that information on advertisement materials might be inadequate, inaccurate, biased, and misleading.

Objective: To analyse and critically assess the information presented in print pharmaceutical advertisements in Saudi Arabia.

Methods: Pharmaceutical advertisements were collected from 280 community pharmacies in Riyadh city, Saudi Arabia. The advertisements were evaluated using criteria derived from the Saudi Food and Drug Authority (SFDA) regulation, the World Health Organization (WHO) ethical medicinal drug promotion criteria, and other principles reported in similar studies. The data were extracted independently by two of the researchers using a standardized assessment form.

Results: One hundred eighty five printed advertisements were included in the final sample. Approximately half of the advertisements (n = 94, 51%) were for over-the-counter (OTC) medications, and 71 (38%) were for prescription-only medication. Information such as the name of active ingredients was available in 168 (90.8%) advertisements, therapeutic uses were mentioned in 156 (98.7%) of analysed advertisements. Safety information related to side effects, precautions, and major interactions were stated in 53 (28.5%), 58 (31%), and 33 (16.5%) advertisements, respectively. Only 119 advertisements (64%) provided references for information presented.

Conclusions: Our findings suggest that print advertisements do not convey all the information necessary for safe prescribing. These results have implications for the regulation of drug advertising and the continuing education of pharmacists.


Download data is not yet available.


1. World Health Organization. Ethical criteria for medicinal drug promotion. (Accessed May 7, 2012).

2. Gagnon MA, Lexchin J. The cost of pushing pills: A new estimate of pharmaceutical promotion expenditures in the United States. PLoS Med. 2008;5(1):e1. doi: 10.1371/journal.pmed.0050001

3. Vancelik S, Beyhun NE, Acemoglu H, Calikoglu O. Impact of pharmaceutical promotion on prescribing decisions of general practitioners in Eastern Turkey. BMC Public Health. 2007;7:122.

4. McGettigan P, Golden J, Fryer J, Chan R, Feely J. Prescribers prefer people: The sources of information used by doctors for prescribing suggest that the medium is more important than the message. Br J Clin Pharmacol. 2001;51(2):184-189.

5. Spurling GK, Mansfield PR, Montgomery BD, Lexchin J, Doust J, Othman N, Vitry AI. Information from pharmaceutical companies and the quality, quantity, and cost of physicians' prescribing: a systematic review. PLoS Med. 2010;7(10):e1000352. doi: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1000352

6. Wazana A. Physicians and the pharmaceutical industry: Is a gift ever just a gift? JAMA. 2000;283(3):373-380.

7. Othman N, Vitry AI, Roughead EE. Quality of claims, references and the presentation of risk results in medical journal advertising: a comparative study in Australia, Malaysia and the United States. BMC Public Health. 2010;10:294. doi: 10.1186/1471-2458-10-294.

8. Othman N, Vitry A, Roughead EE. Quality of pharmaceutical advertisements in medical journals: a systematic review. PLoS One. 2009;4(7):e6350. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0006350

9. Korenstein D, Keyhani S, Mendelson A, Ross JS. Adherence of pharmaceutical advertisements in medical journals to FDA guidelines and content for safe prescribing. PLoS One. 2011;6(8):e23336. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0023336

10. Montgomery BD, Mansfield PR, Spurling GK, Ward AM. Do advertisements for antihypertensive drugs in Australia promote quality prescribing? A cross-sectional study. BMC Public Health. 2008;8:167. doi: 10.1186/1471-2458-8-167

11. Tuffs A. Only 6% of drug advertising material is supported by evidence. BMJ. 2004;328(7438):485.

12. Rohra DK, Gilani AH, Memon IK, Perven G, Khan MT, Zafar H, Kumar R. Critical evaluation of the claims made by pharmaceutical companies in drug promotional material in Pakistan. J Pharm Pharm Sci. 2006;9(1):50-59.

13. Wzorek LF, Copper CJ, Trindade AC, Pontarolo R. Analysis of medicine advertisement produced in Brazil. Pharm Pract. 2007;5(3):105–108.

14. Mali SN, Dudhgaonkar S, Bachewar NP. Evaluation of rationality of promotional drug literature using World Health Organization guidelines. Indian J Pharmacol. 2010;42(5):267-72. doi: 10.4103/0253-7613.70020

15. Sharif SI, Abduelkarem AR. Analysis of written pharmaceutical advertisement in Dubai & Sharjah. Saudi Pharm J. 2008;16(34):252-257.

16. Sibanda N, Gavaza P, Maponga CC, Mugore L. Pharmaceutical manufacturers' compliance with drug advertisement regulations in Zimbabwe. Am J Health Syst Pharm. 2004;61(24):2678-2681.

17. The Saudi Food and Drug Authority-Drug sector- Licensing directorate. Guidance and Requirements Directory of Licensing Pharmaceutical and Herbal Product Advertising. (Accessed May 7, 2012).

18. Alghanim SA. Self-medication practice among patients in a public health care system. East Mediterr Health J. 2011;17(5):409-416.

19. Bin Abdulhak AA, Altannir MA, Almansor MA, Almohaya MS, Onazi AS, Marei MA, Aldossary OF, Obeidat SA, Obeidat MA, Riaz MS, Tleyjeh IM. Non prescribed sale of antibiotics in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia: a cross sectional study. BMC Public Health. 2011;11:538. doi: 10.1186/1471-2458-11-538

20. The Saudi Food and Drug Authority. Registered Drugs List. (Accessed May 7, 2012).

21. Registered Herbal and Health Products List. The Saudi Food and Drug Authority. (Accessed May 7, 2012).

22. Rohra DK, Bashir MU, Khwaja UA, Nazir MR. Critical appraisal of apparently evidence-based written advertising in Pakistan. Pharm World Sci. 2008;30(3):216-221.

23. Cardarelli R, Licciardone JC, Taylor LG. A cross-sectional evidence-based review of pharmaceutical promotional marketing brochures and their underlying studies: is what they tell us important and true? BMC Fam Pract. 2006;7:13.

24. Heimans L, van Hylckama Vlieg A, Dekker FW. Are claims of advertisements in medical journals supported by RCTs? Neth J Med. 2010;68(1):46-49.

25. Cooper RJ, Schriger DL. The availability of references and the sponsorship of original research cited in pharmaceutical advertisements. CMAJ. 2005;172(4):487-491.

26. Cooper RJ, Schriger DL, Wallace RC, Mikulich VJ, Wilkes MS. The quantity and quality of scientific graphs in pharmaceutical advertisements. J Gen Intern Med. 2003;18(4):294-297.
Original Research