America’s Food and Drug Administration plans to crack down on malpractice in direct-to-consumer advertising of prescription medicine.

FDA commissioner Mark McClellan revealed the agency will publish new guidelines for the sector in the next few months.

It will also clamp down on bogus claims made in drug ads. For example, it plans to send more warning letters to pharmaceutical companies making unsubstantiated statements about their products. “It is more important than ever for Americans to be protected from misleading claims not based on scientific fact,” he declared.

One such letter has been sent to Bristol-Myers Squibb. The pharma giant was told there was no scientific evidence that anti-cholesterol drug Pravachol helped prevent strokes – a claim made in print ads for the product.

The company has been ordered to drop the offending pieces and run ads admitting Pravachol does not lessen the risk of strokes.

Prescription drug advertising is a growth sector in the US, with spend having risen from $1.6 billion in 1999 to over $2.5bn last year.

Data sourced from:; additional content by WARC staff