FDA To Consider Use of Celebrities To Advertise Rx Drugs
FDA on Tuesday and Wednesday will hold meetings to consider issues related to direct-to-consumer advertising for prescription drugs, including the use of paid celebrities to promote products, the Boston Globe reports.
The meetings come after "months of criticism" from some members of Congress and other groups who worry that the use of celebrities in drug advertisements can mislead patients about the drugs' safety and efficacy, according to the Globe.
Alastair Wood, associate dean of Vanderbilt Medical Center, said, "It's hard to imagine a setting in which a celebrity endorsement of a drug conveys any meaningful information to patients in terms of either efficacy or side effects."
However, Billy Tauzin, president of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, said, "I don't think the messenger is what potentially presents a 'good' or 'misleading' message. It's the message. That's what you've got to focus on."
Officials for Bristol-Myers Squibb, which uses cancer survivor and seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong as a spokesperson, said they hope the FDA differentiates between older celebrity ads -- in which celebrities promoted a product often without revealing that they were being compensated for their time -- and current advertisements that use celebrities to raise awareness about health conditions.
FDA also will consider whether to delay all consumer advertising for new prescription drugs for two or three years after approval to collect additional data.
BMS in June said it would postpone consumer advertising for at least one year after the FDA gives approval for its drugs. In addition, a voluntary industry code developed by the drug industry recommends that companies educate doctors before they advertise to patients for most drugs; however, the code does not suggest a time frame.
Andrew McDonald, a Think Equity Partners analyst, estimated that the drug industry could lose between $7 billion to $9 billion with a two-year ban.
Tauzin said a three-year ban would be "excessive" but noted that a delay for drugs such as cold medicines "might not be unreasonable." He added, "If it's a medicine that makes a difference in whether you're going to get cancer or not, you probably ought to get it out a little quicker" (Henderson, Boston Globe, 10/30).