Tough HIV drug ads draw fire

There's no question that the HIV drug market is getting crowded. Newer meds like Gilead Sciences' Truvada and Merck's Isentress are on the rise, and GlaxoSmithKline's older drugs--Combivir and Trizivir, for instance--are losing market share. So it's no wonder that drugmakers have unveiled their versions of a political campaign's "attack" ads, pointing out the side effects of competing treatments or aiming to persuade patients to stick with the regimen they're on.

The question is, have the ads gone too far? Some AIDS advocacy groups think so. An activist group officially complained to GlaxoSmithKline about one ad--which pictures shark-infested waters, advising "stick with the HIV medicine that's working for you--saying that it's offensive and designed to make patients afraid of switching. Another advocacy organization says it has complained directly to the Department of Health and Human Services about another GSK ad pointing out the side effects of competing protease inhibitors.

Compared to other advertising, these ads aren't so tough. But traditionally, AIDS-med ads have focused on the positive. And not only are activists concerned that patients could be scared off their doctors' advice. Physicians have expressed worries, too. The drugmakers say that the ads are educational and appropriate, and that patients should make sure to talk to their doctors about the side effects of any new meds.

- read the Wall Street Journal story