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FDA targets Internet drug ads

Internet pop-ups generally contain little text space, and are designed to encourage click-throughs to larger ads on drug makers' Web sites which do have space for warning information. If warnings must appear on the pop-ups themselves it is hard to see how they remain a viable Internet medium.
Written by Dana Blankenhorn, Inactive on

The Food and Drug Administration issued warnings to the makers of Plavix and Tysabri, saying their pop-up ads lack required safety information.

(Former TV journalist Vern Beachy (right) has been blogging about the use of Tysabri to treat his multiple sclerosis since 2006.)

Tysabri, from Biogen Idec, is used against multiple sclerosis and Crohn's Disease, but was briefly recalled in 2004 after it was linked to a deadly brain infection, then allowed back onto the market with the warnings.

Plavix, the blood thinner from Sanofi-Aventis, has been available since 1997 but is known to increase the risk of dangerous internal bleeding. Despite this it's one of the top-selling drugs on the market.

In both cases the FDA said the lack of warnings made the drugs appear safer than they really are. Both companies have until Thursday to describe what they intend to do.

Internet pop-ups generally contain little text space, and are designed to encourage click-throughs to larger ads on drug makers' Web sites which do have space for warning information. If warnings must appear on the pop-ups themselves it is hard to see how they remain a viable Internet medium.

But there are plenty of other Internet formats. (Like blogs.)

What's important is that the FDA is back to regulating advertising content in a big way and paying as much attention to Internet ads as any other type.

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