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FDA to study discount schemes and advertising

US regulator keen to find out if consumers are being duped into placing emphasis on drug benefits rather than risks

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is to evaluate how pharmaceutical discount schemes and advertising can affect the consumer, and whether the communication of risk is adequate.

The US regulator has already posted a notice on its website asking for comments on a proposed study of consumers who have been diagnosed with insomnia. The agency said the study is part of a move to compile ìempirical data about consumers' perceptionsî of coupons and rebate schemes and how certain products might be viewed in the eyes of the public.

The FDA also said it was concerned that consumers who saw a drug advertisement that contained a coupon, a free-trial offer or other type of price promotion might take a more favourable view of the product's benefits to the detriment of its possible risks.

ìCoupons and price promotions may imply superior drug efficacy,î said the FDA.

Pharma companies operating in the US are coming under increasing pressure to limit the amount of advertising they do as well as tone down the material. Several companies have voluntarily agreed not to advertise new products for at least a year after FDA approval.

Late last year, Ruth Day, a cognitive psychology researcher from Duke University, made a presentation at an FDA hearing, analysing pharmaceutical advertising to show how simple media techniques could make consumers less likely to remember possible side effects.

2nd September 2008

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