On Friday, April 17, a Pfizer advertisement told readers of the West Australian newspaper: “If you are taking multiple medicines for conditions such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol, there are combination options that can reduce the number of tablets you take. And the amount of money you pay.”

The advertisement had a section for readers to clip and take to their doctors “to start the discussion” about whether they should be taking a combination heart pill. The Pfizer logo features prominently on this notice, together with what looks like the campaign’s theme “take one”.

Michele Kosky, executive director of the Health Consumers’ Council, has asked the TGA to investigate whether the advertisement breaches the ban on direct-to-consumer advertising of prescription medicines (her letter is published below with her permission). She has also sent a similar letter to Medicines Australia.

Croakey awaits their responses with interest. Please let us know if you see any other such examples of Pfizer marketing its “take one” message to the general public. If there is an ad in one newspaper, it’s likely they will also pop up elsewhere.

It’s also likely that such an advertising campaign will be backed up by a PR campaign – there’s a special Croakey prize for the reader who sends in the most impressive example of a “take one” plug dressed up as a news story.

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Dr Rohan Hammond
National Manager
Therapeutic Goods Administration
PO Box 100
Woden  ACT  2606

Dear Dr Hammond

The Health Consumers’ Council is an independent community based organisation, representing the consumers’ ‘voice’ in health policy, planning, research and service delivery. The Council advocates on behalf of consumers to government, doctors, other health professionals, hospitals and the wider health system. Funded by the Department of Health WA, the Council provides a state wide service. To find out more you can check our website www.hconc.org.au

We were concerned to see the enclosed advertisement in the West Australian on Friday 19 (sic) April. Our understanding is that direct pharmaceutical company to consumer advertising is forbidden in Australia. While we note that no particular pharmaceutical product is mentioned, the positioning of the Pfizer Australia brand would lead a reasonable person to believe that Pfizer make a suitable combination option and in handing the notice ‘to your medical practitioner’ the medical practitioner is likely to prescribe the Pfizer product. We believe that the advertisement contravenes the relevant legislation and request the TGA to investigate.

Many thanks for your consideration of matters raised in this letter.

Yours sincerely

Michele Kosky
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

20 April 2009

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