Study: ED drugmakers aren't properly policing their TV ads

Embarrassed by the ads for erectile dysfunction drugs that pop up at the most inopportune moments? A new study found that the television commercials are indeed airing at family-viewing times--contrary to drugmakers' express promises to refrain.

Eli Lilly's ad spending on Cialis has grown.--Courtesy of Eli Lilly

Researchers found that advertisements for three ED drugs didn't comply with PhRMA's guiding principles for DTC advertising. Campaigns for Eli Lilly's ($LLY) Cialis, Pfizer's ($PFE) Viagra, and Bayer HealthCare's Levitra (also marketed by GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) and Merck ($MRK) in the U.S.) "consistently violated" at least 5 principles set out in those guidelines.

One specific requirement is the most sensitive--the rule that 90% of the audience for their ads should be aged 18 or older. Each of the companies has stated that they comply with that rule, the Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law article contends. But the researchers' analysis of Nielsen data found that none had fully complied during any quarter from 2006 to 2010.

That time frame is important: Back in 2010, a media advocacy group took aim at ED drug ads, saying that they aren't appropriate for children's viewing. Eli Lilly and Pfizer ended up offering up schedules of its television ads. And in early 2011, GlaxoSmithKline pulled its Levitra ads, saying it wanted its DTC campaigns to be "respectful."

Since then, Lilly's ad spending on Cialis has grown. In fact, it was the most-advertised drug, dollar-wise, for the first quarter of 2012. We don't yet have any data showing whether those ads are airing at less-sensitive times--or whether Lilly is still turning over its ad schedules to watchdog groups.

- read the PharmaTimes story

Special Report: Top 10 Drug Advertising Spends -- Q1 2012