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Changes coming in drug ads

Sat., Sept. 17, 2005

What are the potential side effects of a prescription drug? Commercials spell them out — often with an off-screen announcer speaking in a low and rapid-fire monotone.

But reflecting the pharmaceutical industry’s newfound interest in balancing risk and reward messages, Dr. Michelle Y. Francis has emerged as a role model.

An OB/GYN in New York, Francis co-stars in two spots for Ortho Evra, detailing in an understandable voice the possibility of people suffering heart attacks, strokes, blood clots and other maladies while using the Johnson & Johnson contraceptive patch.

“We in the industry have to look at more innovative ways to convey that (risk) information,” said Stuart Klein, president of Quantum, the consumer advertising division of medical marketing agency CommonHealth, a division of WPP Group. “To see a physician delivering the message on the ad is one of the ways to do it.”

Other changes in drug advertising, such as mentioning alternative treatments, dropping celebrity endorsers and highlighting company financial help programs for patients with little or no insurance, could be coming as a result of intensified political pressure on the industry during the past year.

“Still, a number of drug companies see no reason to change what they do, saying they are in line with a new 15-point standard drawn up by Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers Association of America, the industry lobbying group in Washington, D.C.


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