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Warning Letters From FDA Cause Decline in Drug Marketing

14 Oct, 2009 Response This Week

RESTON, Va. – Recent letters sent from the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) to large pharmaceutical manufacturers have caused a large decline in the number of sponsored link exposures by drug marketers, according to a recent ComScore report. Sponsored link exposures dropped by about 50 percent after the letters went out in March, reminding companies that fair and balanced language should be included in all sponsored link advertising.

Prior to the letters, sponsored link exposure in the pharmaceutical market totaled about 11 million per month. Now that number has dropped to about 1 million per month. Unbranded link exposure and vanity link exposures also showed some decline.

On March 26, the Division of Drug Marketing, Advertising and Communications (DDMAC) of the FDA sent letters to 14 major pharmaceutical manufacturers, stating that sponsored link advertisements for specific drugs were misleading due to the lack of risk information.

The largest decline came immediately following the letters, when exposure dropped 59 percent from 10.5 million to 4.3 million, between the week ending March 29 and the week ending April 5. Between March and June, these link exposures dropped a total of 84 percent.

“The FDA letters changed not only how pharmaceutical manufacturers are marketing online, but what consumers are being exposed to when they search for health information,” says John Mangano, vice president of marketing solutions for ComScore. “Independent of what is happening on the regulatory front, we see continued increases in consumers turning to the Internet to research health conditions, treatments and drugs. It is important that marketers and the FDA find a middle ground that meets the spirit of the FDA guidelines and is supportable in the various emerging online media.”

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