Monday, April 18, 2005

Being misled vs. being disgusted

The FDA has sent warning letters to several pharmaceutical marketers for what the agency deems to be misleading ads. In almost all cases, the problem stemmed from language that could imply superior performance. "The Zyrtec print ads had used the headline, 'Tired of your allergy medicine not working? Good thing there's Zyrtec.' The FDA found that theme implied that Zyrtec worked better than other allergy meds...." Levitra was cited for a TV spot with a woman who says, "'Ask your doctor if Levitra is right for you ... It's the best way to experience that difference.' The FDA objected to the notion that Levitra was in any way the 'best' drug for E.D."

Picky, aren't they? I think it could be argued that the ads were indeed carefully worded enough to avoid direct implications, but what do I know? That's why this category is such a bitch for ad agencies. Between the restrictions on language and the required legal disclaimers, it's difficult to communicate anything of value to a consumer. And while I would never advocate the end of pharm TV advertising, there must be some way to spare viewers the appallingly graphic disclaimer copy. Isn't it the doctor's role to warn against side effects? If the FDA wants to bring down the hammer on claims of superior efficacy, fine. But can they just stop warning us about 4-hour erections and uncontrollable bowel movements? Please?

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