A coalition of US medical marketing agencies expressed its concern that increased ad regulation has blunted advertisers' ability to deliver effective messages to consumers.

The group cites tougher federal rules governing DTC drug ads, patients' safety concerns and increased scrutiny of ads by drug company bosses following last year's adoption of voluntary principles proposed by the industry's trade group.

The Coalition for Healthcare Communication - which includes the major US advertising trade bodies - has petitioned the Food and Drug Administration to develop new rules to make the ads clearer and simpler.

It also wants the FDA to recommend the best way to communicate information in DTC ads. Some agencies believe the messages have become so conservative and dull in the interests of a fair balance that consumers are switching off.

Comments Anne Devereux, evp at BBDO, New York: "There are a whole bunch of DTC ads that use doctors in white coats explaining diseases. As soon as you start doing that, consumers stop listening."

Says the CHC's executive director John Kamp: "We want the FDA to create rules that focus on the information needs of consumers. The DTC rules are based on information a doctor needs to know. But that is not what the patient needs to know."

But Peter Lurie, deputy director of the Public Citizen's Health Research Group, thinks the petition is an attempt to scuttle the fair balance rules. He says: "What they mean by clear, simple language are very brief explanations of the dangers."

The FDA is currently reviewing ads policy following a public hearing on the issue late last year [WAMN: 04-Nov-05] and remains mute about the CHC's petition.

Data sourced from AdAge.com; additional content by WARC staff