PhRMA pitches solution to online ad woes

Could PhRMA have come up with a solution to drugmakers' online and social-marketing troubles? The trade group has proposed a universal drug-safety logo that would link to risk information either on the FDA's website, a drugmaker's own site, or some other spot. Wherever it led, the link would yield FDA-regulated safety info. And the logo would allow drugmakers to mention brand names in search ads and other spots where there simply isn't room for a catalog of risks and benefits.

"The reason the FDA is having these hearings is because of widespread concern about the promotion and marketing of prescription drugs," Steven Findlay, senior health policy analyst at Consumers Union, told Reuters. And that concern isn't just on the part of consumer advocates. It's also coming from pharma.

More than a dozen companies recently were hit broadside by FDA warning letters on their search-engine advertising. This brought branded drug ads on Google and elsewhere to a screeching halt. Absent clear guidance from the agency, the companies had been operating off the so-called "one-click" doctrine, which allowed online ads as long as safety info was just one click away.  Drugmakers have been tiptoeing into social media, because they're afraid they'll overstep some FDA boundary they don't know about yet.

So, FDA set a public meeting for review of online promotion rules. And in advance of that meeting, PhRMA has pitched its logo. Besides the trade group, other speakers at that meeting include Findlay--who plans to advocate for links to FDA's online safety info--as well as Eli Lilly, Pfizer, Sanofi-Aventis, Google and more.

- check out PhRMA's statement
- read the Reuters story