“Save 30% if you buy today”. Online pharmacies and the enhancement of peripheral thinking in consumers

Authors

  • Grazia Orizio,

    Corresponding author
    1. Section of Hygiene Epidemiology and Public Health, Department of Experimental and Applied Medicine, University of Brescia, Brescia, Italy
    • Section of Hygiene, Epidemiology and Public Health, Department of Experimental and Applied Medicine, University of Brescia, Viale Europa 11, 25128 Brescia, Italy.
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  • Sara Rubinelli,

    1. Department of Health Sciences and Health Policy, University of Lucerne and Swiss Paraplegic Research, Nottwill, Switzerland
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  • Peter J. Schulz,

    1. Institute of Communication and Health, University of Lugano, Lugano, Switzerland
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  • Serena Domenighini,

    1. Section of Hygiene Epidemiology and Public Health, Department of Experimental and Applied Medicine, University of Brescia, Brescia, Italy
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  • Maura Bressanelli,

    1. Section of Hygiene Epidemiology and Public Health, Department of Experimental and Applied Medicine, University of Brescia, Brescia, Italy
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  • Luigi Caimi,

    1. “Quality and Technology Assessment, Governance and Communication Strategies in Health Systems” Study and Research Centre, University of Brescia, Brescia, Italy
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  • Umberto Gelatti

    1. Section of Hygiene Epidemiology and Public Health, Department of Experimental and Applied Medicine, University of Brescia, Brescia, Italy
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  • Authors declare no conflict of interest.

Abstract

Purpose

Online pharmacies (OPs) are recognized as a potential threat to public health. The growth of an unregulated global drugs market risks increasing the spread of counterfeit medicines which are often delivered to consumers without a medical prescription. The aim of the study was to assess the strategies of argumentation that OPs adopt in their marketing.

Methods

A sample of 175 OPs was analyzed using the content-analysis method, and evaluated by relying on the Elaboration Likelihood Model (ELM) of persuasion.

Results

Almost 80% of the sample of OPs did not ask for a medical prescription by the consumer's physician. The selling arguments used included privacy policy, economic, quality, and service issues. About one-third of the OPs did not declare any side-effects regarding the drugs offered.

Conclusion

Our results show that OPs advertise their products in an argumentative fashion that enhances consumers' peripheral reflection: by analogically playing with the selling of other commodities, they magnify aspects of the online trade that consumers might find convenient, but overshadow the nature and risks of the actual products they sell. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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