BMS bars DTC on new drugs

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Bristol-Myers Squibb vowed not to run branded TV, radio or print ads on new drugs for the first 12 months following their launch as part of a company code on DTC communications.

The firm will instead focus on professional advertising and medical education "and seek their input regarding their experience prescribing the medication." The policy does not exclude disease awareness advertising, CRM or other, more targeted forms of consumer communications for new drugs.

It is the most radical plank of a seven-point plan that also includes resolutions to: submit all new DTC TV, radio and print ads to the Food and Drug Administration; run more disease awareness advertising for new products; refer consumers to websites where they can get more information about medications, including safety and prescribing information; and to include information about patient assistance programs in all advertising, websites and patient brochures. The code also calls for simplified, easy-to-understand risk/benefit language in product communications. BMS associate director of corporate communications Brian Henry said: "Over the last six-to-eight months, the tenor has changed in terms of what people think about DTC, and based on that, we decided to change our practices."

The moratorium on mass-media DTC might impact BMS less than it would other big pharmas, given the firm's recent restructuring to focus on specialty markets, but Henry said product communications on plenty of medicines would still be impacted. "We'll still be reaching out to consumers on our medications, and quite a few would be advertised to a broad population," Henry said. He declined comment on how the code might impact overall promotional spending.

BMS and Sanofi-Aventis spent $98 million on DTC promotion for blood thinner Plavix last year, making it the 12th best-supported drug by DTC dollars, according to TNS Media Intelligence. Other heavily-supported BMS drugs include its Reyataz protease inhibitor and cholesterol drug Pravachol, which loses patent exclusivity next year.

The move could set a precedent for BMS' rivals and fuel support for an advertising moratorium on all new drugs, talk of which has been circulating in Washington since the withdrawal of Vioxx last September.
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