FDA Urged to Reconsider Internet Drug Advertising Rules

FDA Urged to Reconsider Internet Drug Advertising Rules

Agency Harms Consumers With ‘1960s Approach’ to Online Ads

Washington, D.C., October 6, 2009—A new report released today by the Competitive Enterprise Institute challenges the Food and Drug Administration to bring its “1960s approach” to prescription drug advertising into the 21st Century by acknowledging that the Internet and other new media let ads present complete risk and benefit information in unique ways.  The agency will hold a public hearing next month to consider developing its first ever policy on Internet drug promotion, which the study authors say is long overdue.

“For over a decade, the FDA has treated the Internet as just another form of print advertising,” said CEI Senior Fellow Gregory Conko. “Internet ads have had to comply with rules that simply don’t make sense in the Internet Age, where the amount of text available in a banner ad or sponsored link is strictly limited, but the required information can be “one click” away on the landing page to which those ads direct the user.”

In April 2009, the FDA informed drug manufacturers that their use of “sponsored links” on search engines such as Google and Yahoo! were unlawful because the 70-character links did not present the same encyclopedic risk information required of conventional print advertisements.  The drug industry reduced its sponsored link ads by more than 80 percent from March to June 2009, according to Internet analysis firm comScore Inc.

“Ironically, FDA rules allow television ads to direct viewers to a manufacturer’s website to read the product’s risk disclosure, but the same rules require sponsored links to contain the full disclosure on the face of an ad that directly links to the same website,” say report authors Arnold I. Friede and Gregory Conko.  “Requiring Internet advertising to comply with rules drafted for newspaper and magazine ads is absurd when consumers know risk information is just one click away,” said Conko.

> Read the CEI report, FDA and Internet Advertising: The Medium is the Message, by Arnold I. Friede and Gregory Conko.