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Resource-strapped though it is, the FDA's DDMAC is expanding its surveillance to cover the industry's growing use of Internet blogs and product placements in popular TV shows.

So far, two multinationals—Johnson & Johnson (www.jnjbtw.com) and GlaxoSmithKline (www.alliconnection.com)—have opened blogs, one for general public relations and the other for product-specific public information and discussion on the weight-loss OTC drug Alli.

As for product placement in TV shows, according to the Indianapolis Star, there were 462 mentions of Rx drugs on TV shows last year, more than double the number from two years earlier—still far below other products.

So far, there's only one report of a pharmaceutical company paying for a prescription drug product's placement in a TV show or movie—Organon was reported by the Indianapolis Star has having its contraceptive NuvaRing appear 11 times in Scrubs and making placement deals with several TV shows including King of Queens and Grey's Anatomy.

Asked specifically about drug company blogs, DDMAC director Tom Abrams told me, “we believe it is important to monitor all the various venues used by companies for promotion. DDMAC believes that we are more effective in this way rather than monitoring only certain promotional vehicles.”

It wasn't all that long ago that industry sages were highly skeptical that DTC ads would ever become a force in pharmaceutical marketing. “Prescription drugs are not like soap or breakfast cereal or automobiles,” they said.

They had a point then, but it has gone now. Paying for placement could be simple self-defense. In the case of Botox, Cialis and Paxil, for example, TV scriptwriters' unpaid efforts have been derogatory.

Dickinson is editor of Dickinson's FDA Webview (fdaweb.com)

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