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Abstract

A critical requirement of direct-to-consumer (DTC) drug promotion on the Internet is the concept of fair balance. This means that prescription drug Web sites should provide an accurate, balanced portrayal of the risks relative to the benefits of using prescription medications. However, one of the most pervasive findings in consumer research is that risk perceptions are often not aligned with the actual risk a consumer faces. This study examines the impact of certain presentation formats and types of risk information provided on a pharmaceutical Web site and the effect on consumers' perceptions of risk and fair balance. We find evidence of a bias of omission; that is, the risks of treating a health condition using a hypothetical prescription drug were perceived to be greater than the risk of inaction. Interestingly, we found no evidence that the presentation of a “black-box” warning or the warning strength affected the broader construct of fair balance. © 2008 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.