Eli Lilly chief executive Sidney Taurel slammed fluffy DTC advertising on Tuesday, saying product spots that "trivialize" drugs in competitive categories are hurting public perception of the industry.
Taurel told attendees of the World Health Care Congress in Washington, D.C., that facetious drug ads "have created the image that we are selling detergents," and called on his competitors to curb them. "That has, unfortunately, contributed to the deteriorating image of our industry," he added.
Taurel was not alone in concluding that DTC ads have become too much like spots for consumer goods. Speaking Monday at the conference, Food and Drug Administration deputy acting commissioner for operations Janet Woodcock alluded to simmering anger on Main Street and Capitol Hill over "all these people ice-skating around" in drug spots, as Dorothy Hammill did in Vioxx ads. And AstraZeneca president and chief executive David Brennan told conferees that the industry should run more educational promotions, such as disease awareness ads and those promoting compliance and persistence. The FDA has urged drug companies to air more awareness ads and fewer product spots. Unfortunately, Taurel said, the industry cannot draw up mutually-agreed standards for advertising without hazarding anti-trust statutes.
Taurel also disparaged the exploding number of sales reps and vowed that his company will continue to rein in its sales force staffing, holding firm on a hiring freeze imposed last summer. And the Lilly chief expounded on his policy agenda for fixing America's healthcare ills through a market-based, consumer-driven system. "The free market hasn't failed us," said Taurel. "It has never been given a chance to work."