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Responding to both a proposed Food & Drug Administration ruling and competitive pressures, Novartis Consumer Health will break a national TV spot next month announcing the reformulation of its Ex-lax laxative.

Novartis began a voluntary recall of Ex-lax Aug. 29, following a report by the FDA that phenolphthalein-the active ingredient in Ex-lax and other laxative products-may pose a risk of cancer.


The reformulated version of the 91-year-old product uses senna as a new active ingredient and is expected to be on the market within 60 days.

The commercial, from Grey Advertising, New York, will run for about three weeks; a break date has not yet been finalized. It will feature an 800-number that consumers can call for product information, refunds and coupons for discounts on the reformulated product.


"Our interest is to provide reassurance to our users in light of recent news regarding phenolphthalein," said Berry Kesten, brand manager for Ex-lax. "We want to reassure the consumer that we are doing the right thing."

"With product not on the shelf, we felt this was the quickest way to get our message out to the public," Mr. Kesten said.

After the FDA report was first made public in June, Schering-Plough Corp. used print ads to leverage its competitive brand Correctol, which it reformulated to remove phenolphthalein.

New TV ads from Messner Vetere Berger McNamee Schmetterer/Euro RSCG, New York, are now running, telling consumers Ex-lax is being taken off the market while Correctol will continue to be available.

FDA's proposed ruling is causing a shakeup throughout the laxative market.

In June, Bayer Corp. discontinued its Phillips Gelcaps.

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