Elderly Americans Sue AstraZeneca Over Drugs Ads

20 October 2004

Anglo-Swedish pharmaceuticals giant AstraZeneca is under pursuit in the US courts by groups representing senior citizens angered and allegedly out of pocket because of its drugs advertising.

The action centers on the company's introduction of a new acid reflux prescription drug, Nexium, and its subsequent multi-billion dollar promotion. This replaced AZ's cheaper existing remedy Prilosec, which was set to be marketed over-the-counter.

Campaigners argue Nexium was presented, wrongfully in their view, as more effective than its predecessor, as well as alternative generic drugs.

Alex Sugerman-Brozan of pressure group the Prescription Access Litigation Project accuses that the ads and promotions for Nexium "caused millions of people to take a drug at inflated high prices" because the OTC version of Prilosec can run "one-eighth the cost of prescription Nexium" and is no different in treating the condition.

AstraZeneca denies the accusations and maintains the advertising, created by Saatchi & Saatchi Healthcare in New York, is supported by clinical facts.

Daniel J Jaffe of the Association of National Advertisers says it is too soon to tell whether the lawsuit, filed in California, is a threat to the already heavily regulated direct-to-consumer drug advertising market, which totalled an estimated $3.8bn (€2.9bn, £2bn) last year.

Data sourced from New York Times; additional content by WARC staff