Drugmakers to note actors, make other ad changes

Wed Dec 10, 2008 3:17pm EST
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By Susan Heavey

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The drug industry is taking more steps to make its consumer marketing more straightforward, including making it clear when actors are used in commercials and other advertisements.

The top lobbying group for the industry, under fire from some lawmakers and consumer groups for aggressive marketing practices, also said on Wednesday that advertisements unsuitable for children should run during television programs or in publications that target adults.

Ads for impotency drugs such as Pfizer Inc's Viagra have drawn the ire of lawmakers and others for their suggestive content. Ads for the company's top-selling cholesterol drug Lipitor featuring artificial heart inventor Dr. Robert Jarvik also came under fire for using an actor in some scenes.

The latest move by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) updates the group's 2005 pledge to rein in advertising in the wake of Merck & Co Inc's Vioxx recall. The pain drug was found to increase heart risks but was widely advertised directly to potential users.

The United States is the only country besides New Zealand that allows drugmakers to target consumers, although some European regulators have weighed whether to lift such bans.

Drugmakers have said advertising is critical to educate consumers and doctors about available treatments.

Critics of PhRMA's guidelines point out they are voluntary and not enforceable by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. They also are not necessarily adopted by all drugmakers and exclude other types of medical companies, such as those that make devices or over-the-counter drugs and other products.

The FDA regulates industry advertising but has said that it lacks the staff and funding to review every piece of marketing companies put out.   Continued...