Pfizer to improve consumer advertising for prescription medicines

MUMBAI: In order to meet patients' and physicians' needs for health information efficiently, pharmaceutical major Pfizer Inc is planning to change its direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertising of prescription medicines.

The full set of changes will be in place in all Pfizer advertising directed to consumers before the end of 2005, with many of them taking effect immediately.



Pfizer's ads will be consistent with the recently announced pharmaceutical industry's "Guiding Principles" on DTC advertising, which were adopted by the Pharmaceutical Researchers and Manufacturers Association (PhRMA) on 2 August.

The Pfizer changes are designed to help patients achieve better health by encouraging valuable patient/physician dialogue, improving consumer understanding of the risks and benefits of prescription medicines, and motivating people to overcome barriers to healthy behavior.



"DTC advertising is demonstrably helpful to patients, but it should be refined to be even more helpful. DTC ads have encouraged millions of patients to get earlier medical attention and to talk with their healthcare providers. The problem it addresses is real: too many Americans who need medical help postpone action, suffer unnecessarily, delay treatment until their health deteriorates, and end up suffering higher medical costs and more-acute interventions than necessary. Today, we're announcing changes to our DTC advertising to strengthen its educational benefits—and to motivate patients to take earlier action and work with their healthcare providers to take more-informed control over their health," said Pfizer Human Health vice chairman and president Karen Katen.



Studies have shown that consumers want and need health information to better engage in today's health care environment. But significant barriers still prevent tens of millions of Americans from taking action around their health, especially for serious medical conditions such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, depression, asthma and diabetes. These barriers include lack of awareness, denial, misinformation, low health literacy (inability to understand medical information), perceived stigma and lack of insurance coverage for prescription medicines. A strong record of research shows that DTC advertising can be an effective vehicle for getting important health information to consumers and motivating them to consult their doctors.

In fact, over 65 million patients have talked with their physicians after seeing a DTC advertisement and 29 million of these patients mentioned a condition for the first time, according to a 2004 Prevention magazine study.

Moreover, DTC advertising has helped one in four patients who asked about a DTC advertised product during a doctor visit get a diagnosis for a previously unknown medical condition; approximately 43 per cent of these new diagnoses were for high priority conditions such as asthma, high blood pressure or diabetes (Harvard University and Harris Interactive).

Advertising Changes

Since Pfizer started advertising to consumers on television in 1998, the company has regularly consulted with physicians and patients to better understand what is working and how DTC advertising can have a greater impact on healthy behavior. Based on this input, Pfizer makes its patient health information more understandable and easier to read in accordance with its Clear Health Communication Principles.

Now, Pfizer is announcing changes to its advertising in three major areas, as well as announcing additional actions, all of which are consistent with the industry's "Guiding Principles" recently adopted by PhRMA.

"Our advertising is meant to do two things. We want people to be aware of serious medical conditions and our medicines that treat those conditions, and we want to motivate them to talk to their doctors. We believe it's our responsibility to communicate this information effectively so patients can work with their healthcare providers to make informed decisions about their health and get appropriately diagnosed and treated," said Pfizer US Pharmaceuticals president Pat Kelly.

Listed below are the improvements Pfizer is making to its consumer advertisements:

    To help encourage valuable patient/physician dialogue that can lead to early diagnosis and appropriate treatment, Pfizer will: educate physicians about new prescription medicines prior to beginning product TV and print advertising so that doctors can be well-informed about a new medicine before patients start conversations about it. The length of time used for physician education will be no less than six months and will vary depending on the relative importance of informing patients of the availability of a new medicine, the complexity of the risk-benefit profile of that new medicine and health care providers' knowledge of the condition being treated. It will also include language in its product TV and print ads and on product Web sites informing patients that their doctors may recommend alternative treatments, such as diet and exercise, when appropriate.

    To help consumers better understand the risks and benefits of prescription medicines, Pfizer: will fundamentally change our approach to communicating risk and benefit information to improve educational value while continuing to motivate people to overcome barriers to healthy behavior. Pfizer has submitted to the FDA for review a new consumer-friendly and consumer-tested print brief summary, the part of the print ad that extensively lists the risks of a medicine. Should the FDA approve this new version, Pfizer will use this new format in all its print advertising and on all of its product Web sites. Pfizer will fund research to find ways to further improve risk communication in DTC TV advertising. We will conduct this research with input from the FDA and third parties and will adjust Pfizer's communications based on the results. The company will provide use, risk and benefit information in all product TV and print prescription medicine advertisements. This means Pfizer will no longer create "Go ask your doctor about a medicine" TV and print advertisements that do not include the benefits and risks associated with the advertised medicine. In cases where a product is mentioned as part of a sponsorship package, such as "This event is brought to you by Brand X," risk and benefit information will not be included because these communications are about support for the sponsored entity, not the Pfizer product.

    To motivate people to overcome potential barriers to better health, starting immediately, Pfizer will: include information about the industry's "Partnership for Prescription Assistance (PPA)" in a new dedicated "Pfizer Helpful Answers" TV and print ad campaign. PPA offers a single point of access to more than 275 public and private patient assistance programs, including more than 150 programs offered by pharmaceutical companies. The company will also air a dedicated, nationwide TV and print advertising campaign promoting "Pfizer Helpful Answers" to raise awareness among Americans without prescription coverage about Pfizer's patient assistance programs that provide savings on Pfizer medicines or Pfizer medicines for free, depending on income. Pfizer will include "Pfizer Helpful Answers" contact information in all Pfizer product print ads and Web sites. It will also educate doctors, other healthcare providers and their office staff on Pfizer patient assistance programs.

In 2006, Pfizer will invest a meaningful amount - on par with what it spends on a branded advertisement campaign - to create more disease awareness with advertisements that do not mention a product, such as the recent "Why Live With Depression" campaign that featured actress Lorraine Bracco.

The company will also address other important public health issues such as health literacy, compliance or improving the patient/physician relationship through additional non-product advertising and continue our dedicated advertising campaign and efforts to promote "Pfizer Helpful Answers."

In addition to the three areas of change, Pfizer also commits to:

    Submit to the FDA for review all new DTC TV ad campaigns, and those that have major changes, for comment in advance of airing.

    Review the placement of our current advertising to ensure that it will be targeted to avoid audiences that are not age appropriate. For erectile dysfunction ads, this means that all TV ads will be aired during programs that have more than 90 per cent adult viewership.

    Clearly indicate in all product TV and print ads that the medicine is a prescription medicine.


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