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Google Floats 'FDA-Friendly' Pharma Ads

Google is proposing a special new format for online pharmaceutical ads that may address the US Food & Drug Administration's risk-disclosure and regulatory concerns about the industry's online marketing.

Google suggested including extra links about side-effects within drug ads at last week's two-day FDA hearing on pharma's use of social media - a much anticipated event that included presentations ranging from how consumers get their news to drug manufacturers' responsibilities for monitoring third-party web content about their products.

Answer to 'One Click Rule'

Google's proposal was in response to FDA's actions - and industry confusion - over its 'one click rule.' This rule allows online drug ads to mention the brand name and the benefits without including the major side effect effects - as long as these are just one click away. The rule has not always been clear or followed. Earlier this year, the FDA issued warning letters to 14 companies over paid search ads, a move which caused the industry to pull back from such tactics.

Google's suggested ad format would include links to both the benefits and the risks within the ad. The company also produced a version that might be used when a medical prescription has a more serious 'black-box warning." (via Eye on FDA).

Moreover, ads in the new format would have headlines that link to a designated landing page, a fixed, non-modifiable safety and prescribing" statement, and a "more info" link, which would direct consumers to risk information.

Pharma Blogs

Pharma company blogs may be another solution to the industry's current ad and online communication conundrum. Given the lack of guidance on these issues to date, few pharma companies have been willing to use the internet to reach customers in this manner. However AstraZeneca is braving the waters with a blog it launched last month called AZ Health Connections. The posts have been general - discussing, for instance, the then-upcoming FDA conference.

However the company hopes to eventually use the blog in more ambitious ways, including fostering two-way conversation about a range of healthcare topics. Depending on how - or if - the FDA reacts to it, AZ Health Connections may prove to be a model for things to come, especially until the agency releases more definitive industry guidelines.

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