Pharma to Sit on DTC Ads

June 18, 2008

Pharmaceutical Executive

Volume 0, Issue 0

On Monday, a handful of Big Pharma companies told Congress that they would put a six-month moratorium on drug ads for recently approved medication. Pfizer, Merck, Schering-Plough, and Johnson & Johnson also agreed to closely follow the American Medical Association's guidelines when using actors playing physicians in advertisements.

On Monday, a handful of Big Pharma companies told Congress that they would put a six-month moratorium on drug ads for recently approved medication. Pfizer, Merck, Schering-Plough, and Johnson & Johnson also agreed to closely follow the American Medical Association's guidelines when using actors playing physicians in advertisements.

Pharma's olive branch to Congress, however, might not be enough to satisfy legislators looking for major pharma advertising reform. The Committee on Energy and Commerce's litany of demands, sent in late May, asked that pharma refrain from marketing off-label products, not market products until outcomes studies are released, add black box warning in DTC ads, and include the FDA MedWatch phone number on all advertisements. Although each pharma company responded to the requests, none bowed down to all the demands.

The four firms were also asked to consider holding new drug ads for two years, a request that has been advocated by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) for years now, but has been rejected repeatedly.

"Although we appreciate the drug companies' willingness to change some of their business practices, they have not agreed to all of our requests, which would protect consumers from misleading and deceptive advertising," stated Bart Stupak (D-MI), chairman of the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee in a release.

Stupak and Rep. John D. Dingell (D-MI) brought the companies in question to task for public concerns related to ads, including Pfizer's Dr. Jarvik Lipitor TV spots, Merck and Schering Plough's food and family campaign for Vytorin, and J&J's Procrit ads. The former two ads have since been pulled from television.