Google, Yahoo plead case at FDA

Is it any surprise that Google and Yahoo are working hard to get FDA's stamp of approval on search-engine advertising for branded drugs? Of course not, especially when you consider that drugmakers spent more than $4 billion on DTC marketing last year--but online venues only captured about 3 percent of that. And with pharma companies saying they've abstained from lots of online marketing because they don't have rules from FDA, online ad venues could grab some big revenues if the agency would just set policy already.

So here's how these search-engine giants (and other online marketers) are working it. First, the online types are saying that brand-free drug advertising--where a medical condition is mentioned, but the link leads to information about a drug--are cumbersome, inefficient, and unfriendly to consumers. Second, Yahoo and Google have both come up with ad formats for branded meds. Yahoo's would have an extra link to detailed drug info, while Google's would contain an extra line of text that mentioned drug risks, plus a link to official labeling.

The additional linkage for drug ads fits with PhRMA's proposed solution, which as you know is a standardized logo linking to official safety information. And the abbreviated nature of all three solutions would allow the format to be adapted for venues beyond search. For instance, Twitter dispatches are limited to 140 characters.

There was lots of debate back and forth on the topic during the first day of FDA's big confab on social media and online DTC promotions. And there's sure to be more today. Stay tuned for the latest, and feel free to post your ideas--and critiques of ideas presented at the hearing--in the comments.

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