Pfizer Will Delay All DTC Ads Six Months

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Drug company Pfizer has agreed to at least a six-month waiting period between the time it starts telling doctors about a new prescription drug and the time it starts pitching it to potential patients through direct-to-consumer ads.

As a member of PhRMA (Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America) Pfizer had already committed earlier this month to some form of waiting period, but at the Aug. 2 announcement of the new ad guidelines, PhRMA President Billy Tauzin was not committing the association to any set time, saying the waiting period would depend on the drug.

Pfizer Thursday talked about the same flexible scheduling for the ads' launch but set a minimum moratorium of six months, saying: "The length of time used for physician education will be no less than six months and will vary depending on the relative importance of informing patients of the availability of a new medicine, the complexity of the risk-benefit profile of that new medicine and health care providers' knowledge of the condition being treated."

Drug manufacturers have also agreed to let the FDA screen their campaigns before they air--they have traditionally discussed potential campaigns but have never committed to letting the government pre-screen them--and to schedule erectile-disfunction ads in more adult-targeted dayparts.

Pfizer quantified that commitment Thursday, saying it would confine the ads to shows with audiences that were at least 90% adult.

The drug company moves were in response to pressure from Washington, particularly Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, who is a physician. Frist called for a two-year waiting period before advertising prescription drugs as well as the FDA approval the industry has since agreed to.

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