Ad Agency Exec Tells FDA of Personal Tragedy

04 November 2005

The US Federal Drugs Administration public hearings on direct-to-consumer drug advertising hit a personal and emotional note on the second and final day.

The health watchdog panel in Washington DC heard from advertising agency executive Kim Witczak, whose husband committed suicide in 2003 while taking the Pfizer company's antidepressant, Zoloft.

Despite her belief that the drug triggered the tragedy and that she is suing the maker, Witczak told the panel she was not calling for a ban on all DTC ads. Instead, she wants changes, saying DTC ads should "be held to high standard" and they "must be grounded in truth".

The FDA rules review is striving to better regulate the country's $4 billion ((€3.2bn. £2.24bn) annual DTC adspend.

The pharmaceutical companies are aiming to convince the regulator that they themselves can reform and police the advertising, while opponents call for a total ban or - at very least - federal restrictions on DTC ads.

The panel heard from number of other speakers including Judith Cahill, director of the Academy of Managed Care Pharmacy, who said DTC ads were acceptable only if they were educational about disease symptoms or alternative treatment options, but not about specific brands.

She said: "It does a disservice to the public if its aim is to induce name recognition and increase market share."

Lobby group Consumers Union called for a range of reforms, among them a two to three year moratorium on the advertising of new drugs. However, American Advertising Federation president/ceo Wally Snyder warned against such measures, saying that such action would dangerously hinder the public's access to quality medical treatment.

Data sourced from; additional content by WARC staff