Vytorin spots "shame" the ad industry

More ripples from the storied Vytorin trial. With Congress looking into the familiar ads Merck and Schering-Plough used to pump up Vytorin sales, Advertising Age is bewailing the campaign's potential effects not just on DTC ads, but the ad business in general.

Merck and Schering spent $102 million to market Vytorin through the first nine months of 2007, and another $83 million on Zetia. And not without effect; Vytorin's TV ads are among the most-recalled by viewers, Ad Age says. But that very effectiveness may be their downfall, say ad experts. "[Pharma ads] are ubiquitous, and there's a lot of backlash from people who feel they're being force-fed drugs," says Alan Siegel, a branding expert. The upshot: Ad Age advises pharma in an editorial to "tread carefully when rushing the next blockbuster not only to market but onto the airwaves."

Ironically, the FDA just announced last week that it would cancel the new ad-review program instituted by the FDA Amendments Act. A glitch in implementation meant that FDA couldn't collect user fees for the ad review--and consequently couldn't hire additional reviewers--so the agency just has to fall back on its previous review process.

And this new controversy may revive efforts by Sen. Ted Kennedy and Rep. Henry Waxman to empower the FDA to preview ads even for OTC drugs. Ad trade groups are so worried about that prospect that they've made it their number one lobbying concern for this year.

Meanwhile, Merck and Schering took out full-page newspaper ads to defend Vytorin, advising that patients listen to their doctors rather than to the media. Considering the recent support from the American College of Cardiologists, those docs may just advise to keep taking the drug.

- read the story and editorial in Ad Age
- here's more about FDA's review cancellation at DTC Perspectives
- read about the ads defending Vytorin
- get a behind-the-scenes look at Schering and the Enhance

Related Articles:
Congress promises Vytorin hearings. Report
Vytorin fallout doesn't faze analysts. Report
Merck, Schering's Vytorin fails trial. Report
Schering CEO defends Vytorin decisions. Report
Merck, Schering backpedal on Vytorin. Report