REZULIN: Rival Drug Makers Appeal to Rezulin Users
Just days after the FDA pulled Rezulin off the market, rival drug companies have pounced on the opportunity to tout their treatments for type 2 diabetes. SmithKline Beecham, maker of the Rezulin alternative Avandia, has begun placing full-page ads in newspapers like the New York Times and Wall Street Journal, "urging patients to ask their physicians about switching prescriptions." Under a headline reading, "Attention Rezulin ... Users," the ad says that "if you've been taking Rezulin to manage your type 2 diabetes, you probably know that it has been removed from the market because of severe liver problems." It continues, "In requesting its removal, the FDA noted that there are safer alternatives to Rezulin. ... Avandia continues to be recognized as a safe and effective alternative." As a result of its campaign, SmithKline reported a "100% increase in calls to its 800 toll-free consumer line for Avandia, in addition to a large increase of visits to its consumer Web site, Avandia.com." Officials from Eli Lilly, maker of diabetes treatment Actos, also plan to release ads aimed at Rezulin users.
Sign of More to Come?
Gil Bashe, CEO of Health!Quest Global Communications Partners, predicts higher advertising budgets by pharmaceutical companies in the future, partly "in response to rulings on new drugs ... expected to come from the FDA." He said, "You're going to see a lot of reactive advertising to Beltway decisions in the next few months." Allen Adamson, managing director with branding consultants Landor Associates, agreed. Noting that drugs are rarely shelved, he said that when it does occur, companies should spend "every nickel they can." Adamson said, "You want to go in and capture as much of that franchise as you can. As heartless as it sounds, there's nothing smarter that [firms] can do" (Kranhold, Wall Street Journal, 3/28).