FDA Warns Drug Companies About Their Internet Ads

In what the Wall St. Journal has reported as a first for the FDA, the federal agency has warned 14 big pharma companies about their misleading advertisements on the Internet. The ads were typically found as a result of Google searches and the ads were usually sponsored links meaning the drug companies paid for the ads as part of their “pay per click” marketing campaigns. Sponsored links are one way of attracting Google search engine traffic by targeting certain key words that a person surfing the web may be trying to find.
The ads typically overpromoted their benefits while completely ignoring their risks and side effects. The Wall St. Journal article cites one ad by Biogen Idec Inc. for its drug Tysabri which boldly but inaccurately state, “”A Multiple Sclerosis Treatment That’s Different from the Others” or “Satisfied with your MS Medication or Looking for Something Different?”
This is a good sign that the FDA is not only reviewing big pharma’s traditional marketing practices to mainstream media but is branching out and investigating drug companies’ behavior on the Internet.
According to the Wall St. Journal, the companies that received the warning include: Pfizer, Biogen Idec Inc., Sanofi Aventis, Johnson & Johnson, GlaxoSmithKline PLC, Forest Laboratories Inc., Cephalon Inc., Bayer AG, Novartis AG, Merck & Co., Eli Lilly & Co., Roche Holding AG, Genentech Inc., and Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals Inc. Genentech was recently acquired by Roche.