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New Year's Eve Viagra ad labelled 'reckless'

AIDS advocacy and treatment group calls on the world's largest pharma company to pull controversial print ad

A major AIDS advocacy group has hit out at recent print advertisements for Pfizer's impotence pill, Viagra, saying that they encourage recreational use of the drug.

In a full-page advertisement that ran in the Wall Street Journal last Thursday, a smiling grey-haired man asks: ìWhat are you doing on New Year's Eve?î The ad reads: ìFact: Viagra can help guys with all degrees of erectile dysfunction ­- from mild to severe.î

The Los Angeles-based AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) has criticised the print ads as promoting Viagra as a party drug and encouraging risky sexual behaviour.

ìIt is an outrage that, by referencing the biggest party night of the year, Pfizer would employ an advertising strategy that encourages the use of Viagra as a `party drug',î said the group's president, Michael Weinstein. ìNot only does sending this reckless message contribute to the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, but it is also part of a pattern of irresponsible direct-to-consumer advertising by the drug industry.î

The AHF also called on Pfizer to pull the ads.

Pharma companies have come under increasing pressure to tone down DTC advertising, which critics see as excessive promotion of prescription drugs and partly responsible for rising US healthcare costs.

The AHF said it had already written to several pharma companies, challenging them to pledge their commitment to limit DTC advertising but had yet to receive any response.

Last year, the US Food and Drug Administration made Pfizer withdraw a Viagra ad that inferred that men could recapture the vitality of their youth if they took the drug.

2nd September 2008

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