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Industry contests FDA ruling

In March, the FDA sent letters to 14 major pharmaceutical companies stating that the companies' search advertisements had to start including risk information about each drug

In March, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) sent letters to 14 major pharmaceutical companies, including Eli Lilly, GlaxoSmithKline, Merck and Pfizer, stating that the companies' search advertisements — the short text ads that run beside Google results — had to start including risk information about each drug, or be rewritten or removed. According to a report in the New York Times, the letters said ads for widely prescribed drugs, including Celebrex, Propecia and Yaz, did not include the paragraphs of precautions the agency required.

Until the letters went out, pharma companies believed they were in compliance with Internet search ad regulations as long as the companies provided complete risk information within one click of the ad. The letters, however, made clear that such ads were not in compliance.

Executives from the companies do not believe that it is possible to include all required information in the 95 characters that Google allows for such ads. They also have expressed their concern that attempting to fit such risk information into the ads has led to the ads becoming even more confusing than before. Companies are concerned that the FDA will force them to adhere to standards similar to those established for magazines and television, instead of developing new standards that reflect the evolution of Internet advertising.

20th April 2009

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