According to economic theory, one might expect that the informational content of direct-to-consumer advertising of prescription-only drugs would improve consumers' welfare. However, contrasting the models of consumer and market behaviour underlying this theory with the realities of the prescription-only drug market reveals that this market is distinct in ways that render it unlikely that advertising will serve an unbiased and strictly informative function. A review of qualitative evidence regarding the informational content of drug advertising supports this conclusion. Direct-to-consumer prescription drug advertising concentrates on particular products, and features of those products, to the exclusion of others, and the information provided has frequently been found to be biased or misleading in regulatory and academic evaluations. Governments that have so far resisted direct-to-consumer advertising should invest in independent sources of evidence that could help consumers and professionals to better understand the risks and benefits of treating disease with alternative drug and non-drug therapies, rather than permitting direct-to-consumer prescription drug advertising.