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The u.s. food & drug Administration has concluded that its two-year test of advertising prescription drugs directly to consumers is a good thing. It also recognized the bad things that happened along the way-particularly the short shrift given to magazines as marketers rushed to advertise their Rx brands on TV. The government still, however, resists real change that would benefit the consumer even more.

The original guidelines-now adopted with some variations-created the problem when they stipulated that TV advertising was permissible as long as print was used to supplement it, spelling out the long-required contraindications of the drug (what FDA, with no known note of irony, calls a "brief summary"). What that did, of course, was send the then-print-heavy advertisers onto TV.

With the TV option open, marketers took to the air in a big way and began using print for a smaller disclosures listing only. Pretty ugly. As the FDA acknowledged, "A display ad with graphics is more likely to be easily found than straight text."

While we're delighted to see this go decision by FDA-this affirmation of the value of keeping consumers informed through advertising-we still believe the long listings of potential side effects and other "labeling" information are of little value to the consumer. Even when presented with graphics, as the FDA puts it, most of that small type is written in such a way that only a doctor can fully understand it. And in reality, only a doctor even needs that kind of detail, since each and every consumer who responds favorably to an ad must go to their doctor for a prescription before being able to use the advertised drug.

Sure, a few consumers will want more detailed information, but we suspect even they want it in an understandable form. The prominent display of an 800 phone number, or a Web site address, should be the prescription for them. For the general consumer, give them a persuasive message, an appealing product appeal-and tell them to consult with their doctor. Leave the small type to those

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