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Drug Industry Is Said to Work On an Ad Code

The chief lobbyist for the pharmaceutical industry said Monday that drug companies were trying to develop a voluntary code of conduct for the advertising of prescription medicines on television and in print.

The lobbyist, Billy Tauzin, president of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, said he hoped the standards would be issued by June or July.

One purpose is to fend off more stringent federal regulation. Television commercials for some products, including erectile dysfunction drugs, have been criticized by consumer advocates and politicians and mocked by late-night comedians.

Representative James P. Moran, Democrat of Virginia, recently introduced a bill that directs the Federal Communications Commission to ban broadcast advertising of erectile dysfunction drugs like Viagra, Levitra and Cialis from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Mr. Tauzin said the industry would emphasize the need for advertisements to be serious and to highlight a drug's risks as well as benefits.

"We don't make ice cream or handbags or automobiles," he said. "We make products that save lives."

The industry tried to develop such guidelines several years ago. But on Monday Mr. Tauzin said, "The sentiment now is for a good strong code."

The industry, he said, may let consumers and competing companies file complaints about drug commercials with an independent body.

A possible model is provided by the national advertising division of the Council of Better Business Bureaus, the self-regulatory forum of the advertising industry, which reviews the accuracy of advertisements for a wide variety of goods and services. Data from the division showed that lawyers at the council asked companies to modify or discontinue advertisements in 56 percent of the 471 cases they reviewed in the last four years.

John F. Kamp, executive director of the Coalition for Healthcare Communication, which represents medical marketing agencies, said he thought the drug industry would develop "an advertising code that has teeth" in it.


Robert Pear, The New York Times. May 16, 2005

Copyright © 2005 The New York Times Company. All rights reserved.