To Avoid Disclaimers, Drug Makers Don't Name Brands

The Wall Street Journal, Friday, August 29, 2008 11:30 AM
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Under Food and Drug Administration rules, ads that don't directly name a drug don't have to include the reading of possible side effects that can chew up expensive television time. Some drug marketers are taking advantage of that loophole by running TV spots that direct viewers to Web sites without mentioning the name of the product being sold, or its possible side effects.

Pfizer, for example, has a commercial in which a middle-age woman tells the camera about her cigarette habit. During the 60-second commercial, a voice discusses ways to break the habit and directs viewers to Mytimetoquit.com. Visitors to the site find a link to a site that contains information on Pfizer's antismoking drug Chantix, including the negative side effects.

Ruth Day of Duke University, a frequent critic of direct-to-consumer ads, gives the Chantix commercial and website high marks for useful information. An expert in how medical ads work on consumers, Day says mytimetoquit.com is relatively easy and gets to lists of side effects quickly.

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