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Pfizer Announces New DTC Ad Policy

In the wake of the new code of conduct for direct-to-consumer advertising issued by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, Pfizer this morning formally announced its own internal changes to DTC advertising that include more risk information in ads and a reinforcement of the doctor-patient relationship.

The philosophical and strategic shift for the world's largest pharmaceutical company comes as the first wave of an expected sea change in the industry, which has been under ongoing fire from Congress to change the way it presents its marketing and advertising.

Voluntary code of conduct

PhRMA, the umbrella trade group for drug makers, presented its voluntary DTC code of conduct last week. Among the 15 points were calls for elimination of the 15-second reminder ads that do not have to present risk information; better presentation of risks vs. benefits; and Food and Drug Administration pre-approval of all ads.

Pfizer said its changes will be consistent with the PhRMA guidelines and will cover three major areas: to help encourage patient/physician dialogue that can lead to early diagnosis and appropriate treatment; to help consumers better understand the risks and benefits of prescription medicines; and to motivate people to overcome potential barriers to better health.

All changes will be in place before the end of 2005, the company said.

Encouraging patient/doctor dialogue

"Our advertising is meant to do two things. We want people to be aware of serious medical conditions and our medicines that treat those conditions, and we want to motivate them to talk to their doctors,” said Pfizer U.S. Pharmaceuticals President J. Patrick Kelly. “We believe it’s our responsibility to communicate this information effectively so patients can work with their health-care providers to make informed decisions about their health and get appropriately diagnosed and treated.”

$1 billion in ad spending

The company, which spends $1 billion in measured media on its brands, according to TNS Media Intelligence, also said that starting in 2006 it would match what it spends on a branded advertising campaign to create more disease awareness with advertisements that do not mention a product, such as the recent “Why Live With Depression?” campaign that featured actress Lorraine Bracco; address important public health issues such as health literacy, compliance or improving the patient/physician relationship through additional nonproduct advertising; and continue its dedicated advertising campaign and efforts to promote “Pfizer Helpful Answers.”

“DTC advertising is demonstrably helpful to patients, but it should be refined to be even more helpful,” said Karen Katen, Pfizer's vice chairman and president of Pfizer Human Health. “DTC ads have encouraged millions of patients to get earlier medical attention and to talk with their health-care providers. ... Today, we’re announcing changes to our DTC advertising to strengthen its educational benefits -- and to motivate patients to take earlier action and work with their health-care providers to take more-informed control over their health.”

 

Rich Thomaselli, AdAge.com. August 11, 2005

Copyright © 2004, Crain Communications Inc.. All rights reserved.