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Monday, April 9th 2007

Direct To Consumer Advertising Getting Bigger

A Celebrex commercial is drawing complaints.

[The commercial] is unusual for its length — two-and-a-half minutes rather than the usual 30- to 60-second spots — and for the fact that it was the sole sponsor of the ABC newscast, meaning that there were fewer commercial interruptions and fewer minutes over all devoted to advertising. It was the only ad during last Monday’s program.

The ad uses animated line drawings rather than actors, with a voice-over narrator who spends much of the time comparing Celebrex with the safety of other painkillers and discusses the risks associated with it use.

At least one consumer advocacy group is getting its name in the media by raising a little tussle over the ad.

Public Citizen, a consumer group, asked the Food and Drug Administration this morning to ban the Celebrex television commercial, alleging that it gives consumers a false impression that the prescription drug has no more safety risk than some other painkillers.

Dr. Wolfe, [director of Public Citizen’s Health Research Group,] in his letter to the F.D.A. commissioner…said that the ad violated the law because it contained “false or misleading statements” that might lead consumers to underestimate the risks of Celebrex and use it instead of safer painkillers that are just as effective.

“The overall purpose of the ad is to make it appear, contrary to scientific evidence, that the cardiovascular dangers of Celebrex are not greater than those of any of the other Nsaid painkillers,” the letter said, referring to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. “Further, it asserts that certain gastrointestinal problems are, if anything, less frequent with Celebrex than with two popular over-the-counter (OTC) painkillers.”

Of course Pfizer does not agree.

The commercial certainly mentions naproxen and ibuprofen by name and calls them prescription drugs. Of course it is much more popular to get those drugs as OTC formulas, so I imagine it will confuse people. I suppose you can judge for yourself…it is an odd commercial, focusing on the negatives of the drug in order to assuage people’s fear in using it.

I think we can all agree that the evidence is clear that the heart risk from celebrex is greater than the heart risk from naproxen or ibuprofen. I guess the question is if you think the ad implies to the contrary.

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