New Bill to Curb Pharma ED Ads

May 12, 2009
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US Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA), is back on the warpath against TV ads for erectile dysfunction drugs. Reintroduced last week, “The Families for ED Advertising Decency Act” would sequester ED ads on radio and television to the hours of 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.

Moran introduced a similar bill in 2005, and worked with PhRMA to try to get drug companies to voluntarily restrict sexually charged ads to evening hours. This time, he’s focusing on ED ads during weekend sports shows.

“I don't think it's very subtle to suggest that you call your doctor if you experience an erection lasting longer than four hours, or ask your doctor if your heart is healthy enough for sex,” Moran told DC-based radio station WTOP. “I don't think it's appropriate for children to listen to that kind of stuff.”

However, marketing experts think the Congressman is making a bad move—one that raises questions about freedom of speech. “I think once you start to control when pharma can run ads and what you can run in them—when does it stop?” said Scott Testa, professor of marketing at St. Joseph’s University. “When the government tries to get involved in these issues, they usually don’t do a good job, and it sets a very bad precedent.”

David Johnson, CEO of advertising firm Strategic Visions told Pharm Exec that he thinks the bill will hurt the industry, because the 10 p.m. hour is losing viewership, as studies and ratings show more and more people going to bed earlier, time-shifting their viewing, or just tuning out.

“This looks like a Band-Aid approach,” Johnson said. “What if kids stay up past the hours they are banning it? I wouldn’t be surprised if someone doesn’t propose that FCC create a content rating for commercials. That’s where I think we are heading.”

One popular radio network in New York told Pharm Exec that it already limits questionable ED and condom ads away to “safe harbor” hours, but that the decision is up to the individual stations.

The bill, HR 2175, is currently before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. Neither Moran nor his press office returned calls for a statement.