ELI LILLY: Issues Direct-To-Consumer Ad Guidelines
Amidst the controversy over direct-to-consumer advertising, Eli Lilly and Co. "has become one of the first pharmaceutical companies to develop guidelines to regulate how it advertises prescription drugs," the Indianapolis Star/News reports. Many physicians decry the consumer ads, saying they "inspire superficially informed consumers to demand drugs that are not always appropriate." But Lilly would have imposed strict guidelines upon itself regardless of physicians' concerns, according to Mitchell Daniels, Eli Lilly's vice president of corporate strategy. While current law requires the Food and Drug Administration to review any prescription drug ads before they become public, Eli Lilly's internal guidelines go further, calling for "input from doctors, patients and various health care advocacy groups." In addition, the guidelines require that the drugmaker's ads "enhance, rather than damage, the physician-patient relationship," that they be "directed solely at adults" and "include information that helps consumers understand the illness the drug treats." Daniels said, "There's a right way and a wrong way to advertise to consumers."
The pharmaceutical industry spent around $1 billion on advertising last year, compared to $300 million in 1993, according to the American Association of Advertising Agencies. Eli Lilly has "touted" its anti-depressant Prozac, its diabetes drug Humalog and its osteoporosis drug Evista. But Eli Lilly "stressed that it has trod carefully into the advertising arena, spending far less than many of its pharmaceutical counterparts on marketing to mass audiences." The Star/News reports that Glaxo Wellcome has a $147 million advertising budget, while Eli Lilly spends only $21 million. Although the American Medical Association "condemns" direct-to-consumer advertising, the group "declined to comment on Lilly's new guidelines." The Indiana State Medical Association, however, "praised the guidelines." Association President Dr. Peter Winters said, "They're saying they'll consult with doctors first, and of course, we like that" (Edelhart, 3/27).