In return, DTC advertisers should expect an FDA that:
* Fosters honest competition by assuring advertisers they won't be victimized in the marketplace by rivals that traffic, with impunity, in inaccuracies and deceptions.
* Builds public confidence in advertising, and thereby increases the effectiveness of advertising investments, by acting in visible ways to ensure the accuracy of the information consumers get in ads.
* Avoids being harmfully adversarial in its dealings with advertisers, and assures a frequent and clear flow of information from the FDA to advertisers about its views on ad practices and where the line falls between the acceptable and unacceptable.
* Recognizes, and respects, advertising's role as advocate for the product, and is a partner with marketers in devising rules that make communications effectiveness a mutual goal of advertiser and regulator. That means realizing that ads cannot convey every line of useful information about a prescription product.
There are powerful tools in FDA's hands, including the ability to require advertisers to correct past misinformation in future paid ads. That could cost Pravachol marketer Bristol-Myers Squibb millions of dollars. No advertiser should face that kind of penalty if better communications between company and regulator can head it off. It's harder to put a price on public confidence in the truthfulness and accuracy of DTC ads. But the loss of it would be very, very costly to bear.