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Pfizer to offer drugs risk/benefit summary to consumers 



19th August, 2005: The US drug giant Pfizer will provide consumer-friendly risk/benefit summary for its products, which the company has submitted to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). As part of its programme to address growing controversy surrounding the promotion of prescription drugs to consumers in the US, Pfizer is making fundamental changes to its direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertising campaigns. 

The proposed changes in three major areas are aimed at improving consumer understanding of the benefits and risks of a treatment, encouraging more dialogue between patients and doctors, and motivating people to overcome potential barriers to better health, as Pfizer release said. Also as part of the changes, the company will inform patients in television and print advertising, and on product websites, that their doctor may recommend alternative treatments. 

The firm will also invest a `meaningful amount' - similar to the figure it spends on a branded ad - in creating more disease awareness campaigns, such as Why Live With Depression? which featured Sopranos star, Lorraine Bracco. 

All DTC activities will be consistent with the Guiding Principles voluntary code from the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) along with a number of other pharma companies, including Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS), Johnson & Johnson and Wyeth, the release said.

Recently, Pfizer has announced that it would wait at least six months before advertising new prescription drugs to consumers and air ads for its impotence treatment Viagra only during programmes with at least 90 per cent adult viewing, putting an end to such campaigns appearing in breaks in the Super Bowl. 

Researches suggest that DTC advertising can be an effective vehicle for communicating important health information to consumers. However, intense criticism and a raft of complaints from patients and doctors claiming that promotion exaggerates the benefits and downplays the risks of prescription drugs, have forced pharma companies to rethink their approach to the practice. 

BMS has developed its own promotional code of conduct, the Direct-to-Consumer Communications Code, which has been posted on its homepage and is consistent with PhRMA's Guiding Principles. 

Promising to include information about patient assistant programmes in its advertising and developing disease state awareness advertising, BMS says for at least 12 months after the launch of a new drug it will not advertise direct to consumers either on television, radio or in print. Instead, it said, during that time it will invest in educating healthcare professionals about the new drug. 

Wyeth has also given its backing to the PhRMA guidelines, which it believes 'provide a responsible framework for advertising communication'. 


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