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Bristol Myers Squibb Announces New Consumer Advertising Policy
  "A Self-Imposed Ban on Drug Ads"
NY Times
June 15, 2005
THE drug maker Bristol-Myers Squibb said yesterday that it had imposed a ban on advertising its new drugs to consumers in their first year on the market, adopting voluntary restrictions that go further than what is anticipated in an industrywide advertising code to be announced next month.
The company said it wanted to give doctors time to understand new products before patients begin asking for them.
"We want to make sure that before we start mass media - television, radio and print branded advertising - that physicians have a level of comfort about the treatment and which patients are appropriate for it," Brian Henry, a spokesman for Bristol-Myers, said.
The 12-month ban is part of a new advertising code the company posted on its Web site yesterday (see the BMS Code below just follow8ing this NY Times article).
Despite the growing backlash against direct-to-consumer advertising of pharmaceuticals, Mr. Henry said the company is not aware of any similar codes in the industry.
In the eight years since the Food and Drug Administration lifted a prohibition on consumer advertising, drug ads have become a $3.8 billion business. The constant drumbeat of spots, mostly on television, is so effective that patients demand prescriptions from their doctors, and some critics accuse the physicians of obliging even though the drugs might not be best for the patient.
The practice has become particularly controversial in the last year in the wake of disclosures that the prescription painkillers known as cox-2 inhibitors were linked to cardiac problems. Advertising and marketing played a role in the widespread use of two of the drugs, Vioxx and Celebrex, by many patients who would have done just as well with less expensive over-the-counter remedies, critics have said.
The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, the trade group, is expected to adopt its industrywide code next month, but apparently will stop short of embracing anything like the 12-month moratorium on advertising new drugs.
"We believe passionately that patients have a right to know about new drugs which may save their lives or improve the quality of their lives," said Ken Johnson, a spokesman for the trade group, known as PhRMA. Mr. Johnson said that the "finishing touches" were being put on the new code, but he would not divulge its contents.
The chief executive of Bristol-Myers, Peter R. Dolan, is slated to become chairman of the industry trade group next year. Mr. Dolan's company has been working to improve its image in the wake of investigations of its accounting practices by the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Direct-to-consumer advertising became an issue in last year's presidential campaign, with the Democrats holding drug advertising partly responsible for ever-increasing prescription costs and inflation in the nation's health care bills. Lawmakers, both at the federal and state levels, have also embraced the issue.
One bill pending in Congress, sponsored by Representative James P. Moran, a Democrat from Virginia, would ban the broadcast of all erectile dysfunction ads from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m., a measure partly aimed at limiting the exposure to children of the suggestive content of ads for Viagra, Cialis and Levitra.
In addition to placing a 12-month moratorium on consumer advertising of new drugs, Bristol-Myers' code calls for advertising to "appropriate audiences at appropriate times of the day" - a section apparently influenced by ubiquitous erectile dysfunction advertising.
The code also said that all company ads will inform poor patients that assistance programs are available to help them get medications. Bristol-Myers is based in New York.
Taken From the Bristol Myers Squibb website at
Bristol-Myers Squibb Direct-To-Consumer Communications Code

June 13, 2005
Providing accurate, understandable and educational direct-to-consumer communication is an important way for Bristol-Myers Squibb to live its mission of extending and enhancing human life. Our goal is to have the right patient get the right medicine at the right time.
Our Commitment
In our direct-to-consumer communications we promise to: - Communicate risks and benefits of our products in language consumers understand.
- Provide information about the underlying diseases and conditions that our products are approved to treat.
- Respect the role of the health care professional in determining whether a particular treatment is appropriate.
- Highlight programs that can improve access to medicines for patients in need.
Our Plan
For all newly launched products, we promise to:
- Get guidance internally and externally on how our potential advertising performs against our commitment and communication goals, and determine if there is additional need for information about a disease or condition and potential treatments with Bristol-Myers Squibb products.
- Include information, where appropriate, in all print advertising, websites and patient brochures about patient assistance programs to help people get the medicines they need. For example, in the United States, information about the Partnership for Prescription Assistance program will be included in our materials.
- Develop disease state awareness advertising, as appropriate, for diseases that may be potentially treated by our newly launched medications in order to further educate consumers and healthcare professionals.
- Refer consumers and healthcare professionals to websites which will have information about our medications, including links to safety and prescribing information.
- For a minimum of 12 months following a launch of a new medication, Bristol-Myers Squibb will refrain from any direct-to-consumer branded mass media (television, radio and print) advertising to promote the medication. During that period, we will focus our efforts on educating medical professionals about the new prescription medication and seek their input regarding their experience prescribing the medication.
- When we do advertise on television it will be to appropriate audiences at appropriate times of the day. We will fully consider the benefits, risks and potential side effects of our medicines and the intended or unintended impact of communicating such messages to various audiences.
- Once a decision is made that direct-to-consumer mass media (television, radio, print) advertising for a new medication is appropriate, we will submit the proposed advertisements to the Food and Drug Administration for advisory comments.
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