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KSL Media, seeking to return prescription-drug advertising to its direct-response TV roots, has formed Healthcare Direct and is negotiating with ABC-owned stations to carry a regularly scheduled medical program it would produce.

New York-based KSL, one of the largest independent media buying services, hopes to soon sign two major pharmaceutical marketers to fully sponsor three or more half-hour programs, targeted to Sunday viewing. Each show will focus on a single disease treated by drugs the marketers offer.

At the same time, Medical Broadcasting Co. expects its "By Prescription Only" half-hour program to hit TV stations early next year, using existing clients such as Schering-Plough Corp. and Glaxo Wellcome, for which it produces patient tapes, among other things.


Both companies maintain that the half-four format allows for greater education on the medical condition and the drug treatment than do direct-to-consumer 30- and 60-second commercials.

"Drug companies don't want to be in a [commercial pod] with silly Miller Lite ads-it takes away from their credibility," KSL President Kal Liebowitz said in explaining the plan for exclusive ad environments.

KSL will place the programs and hopes to create a series of 26 "Revelations in Health & Medicine" shows for the coming season, with sponsorships costing from $2 million to $20 million depending on how many shows are bought.

The company also intends to air independent "Medical Minutes," lifted from its half-hour shows.

The boom in DTC ads for Rx drugs largely supplanted the infomercial format. But when the Food & Drug Administration relaxed disclosure requirements, it also got easier for direct-response TV.

"It reduced the need to run full prescribing information at the back of the program; we were committing 4 and 5 minutes at the end for that," said David Kramer, chairman-CEO at MBC.

Pharmacia & Upjohn's Rogaine-widely credited with starting the DTC ad trend-began with direct-response TV.

"I was told it was a nightmare of an exercise for them to get it on the air; it took them two years back then," Mr. Kramer said. "The entire pharmaceutical industry walked away from it." "

Unlike KSL's fixed schedule, MBC's shows are to air at different times, depending on what demographic a drug is suited for.


Initially, Mr. Kramer said, MBC will target drug brands with current DTC campaigns. MBC's programs will cost an advertiser $3 million to $4 million per episode for an "aggressive" effort, he said.

"We think the shows will have similar impact [to] a $15 million to $20 million network TV 60-second spot," Mr. Kramer said, adding that his clients are already committed to programs on depression, seasonal allergies and women's yeast infections.

MBC previously created 24 episodes of the syndicated TV show "Prevention Magazine's BodySense," which aired this year through September.

KSL and MBC hope to work with pharmaceutical ad agencies. But John Szlasa, president of CommonHealth Consulting-a unit of CommonHealth USA, the largest medical ad agency-was skeptical.

"This is not a new idea and, generally speaking, it hasn't done very well," he said. "People don't really want to know that much about this stuff, they don't

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