With new FDA, drugmakers tone down DTC

The good news: Drugmakers appear to be getting the FDA's tread-carefully message when it comes to DTC advertising. The bad: We're probably less likely to hear catchy jingles, see edgy campaigns, or meet endearing product mascots.

What's going on? The "new FDA" under President Obama--and Commissioner Margaret Hamburg--has been more diligent about citing drugmakers for their advertising. The agency issued 41 warning letters last year, twice the number handed out in 2008, Bloomberg reports.

So perhaps that's why drugmakers were so quick to respond to the agency's recent decision that risk info has to get equal billing with drug benefits. Commercials for Pfizer's stop-smoking drug Chantix, for instance, now include more than a minute of safety warnings, when previously they included some 14 seconds. Bristol-Myers Squibb overhauled ads for its clotbuster Plavix, using half the air time to talk side effects--two times the amount previously given over to risk info.

Which leads us to the rest of the story. At least one market researcher says that if the trend continues, "[I]t may become counterproductive to advertise to consumers." As ads become more subtle--and get increasingly attention from regulators--they probably won't work so well, Datamonitor's Maura Musciacco tells Bloomberg. "The ads become less memorable and catchy and, at the end of the day, there may be a disincentive" for consumers to try a new product, she tells the news service.

- read the Bloomberg piece