"What we've suggested is allowing an appropriate amount of time for doctors and other health professionals to be educated
about the medication," says PhRMA's Ken Johnson. "This will vary from product to product—a breakthrough cancer drug would
take longer than an athlete's foot cream, for example."
Pfizer, however, has decided to put a minimum time period on all products slotted for promotion. "Pfizer has committed to
educating physicians for a minimum of six months before beginning TV and print product-branded advertising to consumers,"
says Jim Maffezzoli, team leader for Pfizer's consumer strategy team. "[This] applies to newly approved products where doctors
have expressed a desire to have time to become more familiar with the medicine."
PhRMA has asked its members to submit print and broadcast ads to FDA before they are released, and to assure that advertisements
identifying a product by name clearly state the condition it is approved for and the major risks associated with its use.
In response, Pfizer is running unbranded reminder ads.
"Pfizer will no longer create 'Go ask your doctor about a medicine' TV and print advertisements that do not include the benefits
and risks associated with the advertised medicine," a company statement said. Pfizer will, however, air "dedicated, nationwide
TV and print advertising promoting Pfizer Helpful Answers, assistance programs which may help under insured people to pay
Television and print
TV and print ads should be designed to achieve a balanced presentation of a drug's benefits and risks. Specifically, risks
and safety information should be clear, understandable, and presented in a manner supportive of dialogue between patients
and physicians, according to PhRMAs Principles. Pfizer says it has already made changes to meet these goals.
"The new consumer-friendly brief summary currently appearing in Lipitor [atorvastatin] print advertising is designed to more
effectively communicate risk and benefit information in an accessible way," Maffezzoli says. "And to support the doctor-patient
dialogue, we are implementing improvements, such as including alternative treatment language in our advertising. For example,
the new campaign for Zyrtec [cetirizine] includes an example of what the doctor may suggest, such as ways to first remove
or avoid allergens using a dehumidifier, as well as medication options like Zyrtec."
Other changes afoot at Pfizer in 2006, according to a company statement, include a vow to "invest a meaningful amount—on par
with what it spends on a branded advertisement campaign" to create more unbranded disease awareness ads (such as the "Why
Live With Depression" ad starring Sopranos actress Lorraine Bracco). The company also plans to take a closer look at ad placement "to avoid audiences that are not age
appropriate." In particular, the company says ads for erectile dysfunction drugs like Viagra (sildenafil citrate) will be
aired during programs with a primarily adult viewership.
"Our hope," Maffezzoli says, "is that these changes will result in making consumer advertising more effective at encouraging
more valuable patient-healthcare professional dialog, helping consumers better understand the risks and benefits of prescription
medicines, and motivating people to overcome significant barriers to better health."