Bristol-Myers Changes DTC Ad Policy

BOSTON Bristol-Myers Squibb said it would cease advertising drugs directly to consumers during their first year on the market.

The client spent $140 million on paid media in 2004, per Nielsen Monitor-Plus.

“For a minimum of 12 months following a launch of a new medication, Bristol-Myers Squibb will refrain from any direct-to-consumer branded mass media [television, radio and print] advertising to promote the medication,” the client said in a “DTC Communications Code” posted on its Web site. “During that period, we will focus our efforts on educating medical professionals about the new prescription medication and seek their input regarding their experience prescribing the medication.”

Some key Bristol-Myers products include cholesterol medication Pravachol, anti-clotting drug Plavix (used to help prevent heart attacks and strokes) and HIV treatment Sustiva.

The company goes on to say, “When we do advertise on television, it will be to appropriate audiences at appropriate times of the day. We will fully consider the benefits, risks and potential side effects of our medicines and the intended or unintended impact of communicating such messages to various audiences. Once a decision is made that direct-to-consumer mass media … advertising for a new medication is appropriate, we will submit the proposed advertisements to the Food and Drug Administration for advisory comments.”

DTC drug advertising has become a hot-button issue in the past year, with the government ordering ads pulled for several well-known products, including Celebrex, Crestor, Levitra and Zyrtec.

—Adweek staff report