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By Published on .

Advertising prescription drugs direct to consumers is changing the way pharmaceutical companies conduct business, turning their attention toward individuals.

It's only recently that executives have been placed in charge of overall DTC advertising efforts. Previously, brand managers were responsible for marketing decisions.

Glaxo Wellcome has been the top DTC spender since 1995. But it just named Ed Mathers in May to the new post of VP-consumer healthcare marketing, overseeing all DTC efforts.

Mr. Mathers, 38, also worked on the introduction of over-the-counter acid-blocker Zantac 75. Andrew Witty, VP-general manager of marketing, was profiled in Advertising Age's 1997 Power 50.

"My role has broadened to focus on all categories," says Mr. Mathers.

Nearly two years ago, Len Tacconi was tapped to be executive director-consumer marketing at Merck & Co. from his consumer-side post as VP-marketing at H.J. Heinz Co.'s Weight Watchers division.

"Merck had a proven [business marketing] formula that works, that didn't include consumer marketing," notes Mr. Tacconi.

Earlier this year, Merck launched a major effort behind its Propecia hair-loss drug from Y&R Advertising, New York. It plans to break a major campaign to support its Maxalt migraine remedy via Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide, New York.


"With Propecia, we're clearly looking at a consumer product,"*says Mr. Tacconi. "Physicians just aren't going to say, `Hey, looks like you're a candidate for male-pattern baldness treatment.' It's too cosmetic and a matter of well-being and self-esteem."

Pfizer became a major player in 1996, when it tripled its DTC media budget to $70 million to support Zyrtec allergy, Cardura high blood pressure and Diflucan treatments.

Three-year DTC veteran J. Patrick Kelly, VP for Pfizer and a senior VP for its U.S. pharmaceutical group, has overseen the launches of Zithromax antibiotic, Glucotrol XL diabetes and Aricept Alzheimer's treatments, and the launch of hot product Viagra.

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