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BRISTOL-MYERS SQUIBB ANNOUNCES NEW DTC POLICY

Will Cease Ads During First Year of a New Drug's Release

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WASHINGTON (AdAge.com) -- Bristol-Myers Squibb has broken industry ranks to become the first drug maker to voluntarily abandon direct-to-consumer pharmaceutical ads during a product’s first year and will also limit the times of day when it advertises drugs on TV.
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Online statement
In a statement posted on its Web site, the drug maker announced the policy was part of a new “direct to consumer” communications code.

“For a minimum of 12 months following a launch of a new medication, Bristol-Myers Squibb will refrain from any direct-to consumer branded mass media (television, radio and print) advertising to promote the medication. During that period we will focus our efforts on educating medical professionals about the new prescription medication and seek their input regarding their experience prescribing the medication.”

Limit TV ads
The company said it will also limit its TV ads “to appropriate audiences at appropriate times of the day."

The move comes as members of Congress have focused their attention on DTC advertising. One bill, from Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, and Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., would require ads for newly approved drugs to carry extensive new warning labels.

Increasing scrutiny
DTC advertising, which has been one of the most lucrative areas of the marketing services business in recent years, has come under increased scrutiny from government agencies and the public since the prescription anti-inflammatory drug Vioxx was pulled from the market last year, followed by the FDA's request that Pfizer pull its ads for Celebrex, a similar drug.

In March, Johnson & Johnson's CEO, William Weldon, challenged rivals to follow the company's lead and reveal more in their marketing communications about the risks of using their products.

"We should start by recognizing that the framework we call DTC advertising may inadvertently minimize the importance and power of medicines and their risks," Mr. Weldon said at the time. "Our communication with patients should really be thought of as direct-to-consumer education."

More risk-related data
In challenging the industry to reaffirm the public's trust in the safety and value of prescription medications, Mr. Weldon premiered a J&J ad that includes more risk-related information and asked his peers to do the same. Mr. Weldon's comments were made as he accepted the chairmanship of the industry's primary trade group, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America.

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