To Prescribe or Not To Prescribe? Surrogate Decision Making For Life-Enhancing Products
Journal of Consumer Research, vol.
With rapid biotechnological advances in specialty drugs and direct-to-consumer advertising, consumers are under tremendous pressure to look, perform, feel, and live better. This is often accomplished through the use of life-enhancing products, sometimes referred to as performance-enhancing products, which can be accessed only through a gatekeeper, such as a physician. Integrating consumer and medical research, this article investigates how physicians make trade-offs between objective medical and nonmedical factors to determine consumers’ access to life-enhancing products by examining US pediatric endocrinologists’ prescription decisions for growth hormone (GH) for healthy but short children. The results of a conjoint study indicate that consumer medical criteria have less impact on a physician’s decision to prescribe GH if the consumer requests a prescription or the physician believes in the intangible product benefits, and more impact when the product is more expensive. A physician’s length of experience increases the impact of consumer medical criteria and decreases the influence of a consumer’s preference for a prescription on the decision to prescribe. Overall, this research shows that not all consumers have equal access to life-enhancing products; their access depends on a complex combination of medical and nonmedical factors related to the consumer, product, and the physician.