DTC tax break safe, but cheery ads aren't

If you were losing sleep over pharma's DTC tax deduction, relax. It's safe, at least for now. AdAge reports that cutting the DTC tax break didn't make the House version of healthcare reform. The American Advertising Federation crowed out its victory: "This is a significant accomplishment, achieved in large part because of the outstanding grass-roots response of the advertising industry," EVP Clark Rector wrote in a memo to members. Pharma's $80 billion cost-cutting pledge--and $224 million in lobbying so far this year--didn't hurt.

Of course, politicians are fickle, so there's no guarantee that the deduction won't fall in the near future. As Rector told AdAge, there are plenty in Congress who still like the idea of killing that tax break.

But as the Los Angeles Times points out, pharma should worry less about their tax break and more about the FDA's proposed rules for including risk info in DTC ads. You'll recall that the agency issued those draft regs early this year, and that they target some techniques that are standard in DTC TV spots. The auctioneer-style reading of small print, for instance. Use of technical language is another. So is that chirpy litany of side effects, voiced over happy-happy-joy-joy video.

So are ads too boring to endure in pharma's future? Could be. "The new FDA guidelines suggest that if drug advertising can't be banned outright, it might be regulated to death," the LAT columnist theorizes.

- see the story in AdAge
- read the LA Times column