Research indicates that there is a preference for natural v. synthetic products, but the influence of this preference on drug choice in the medical domain is largely unknown. We present 5 studies in which participants were asked to consider a hypothetical situation in which they had a medical issue requiring pharmacological therapy. Participants ( N = 1223) were asked to select a natural, plant-derived, or synthetic drug. In studies 1a and 1b, approximately 79% of participants selected the natural v. synthetic drug, even though the safety and efficacy of the drugs were identical. Furthermore, participants rated the natural drug as safer than the synthetic drug, and as that difference increased, the odds of choosing the natural over synthetic drug increased. In studies 2 and 3, approximately 20% of participants selected the natural drug even when they were informed that it was less safe (study 2) or less effective (study 3) than the synthetic drug. Finally, in study 4, approximately 65% of participants chose a natural over synthetic drug regardless of the severity of a specific medical condition (mild v. severe hypertension), and this choice was predicted by perceived safety and efficacy differences. Overall, these data indicate that there is a bias for natural over synthetic drugs. This bias could have implications for drug choice and usage.
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Meier, Brian P., and Courtney M. Lappas. "The Influence of Safety, Efficacy, and Medical Condition Severity on Natural v. Synthetic Drug Preference." Medical Decision Making (2016), 1-9.
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Original version is available from the publisher at: http://mdm.sagepub.com/content/early/2015/12/18/0272989X15621877.abstract