October 6th, 2006

Drug Makers Raise Ad Spending

Associated Press

Pharmaceutical companies increased advertising spending by 9% in the first half of this year, suggesting they no longer feel constrained by complaints raised after the landmark withdrawal of the pain medicine Vioxx.

Spending rose to $2.46 billion in the six-month period as drug makers devoted larger portions of their budgets to magazine ads and poured more funds into campaigns to promote their images and disease awareness, according to TNS Media Intelligence. In the first six months of 2005, spending was essentially flat at $2.26 billion.

The Vioxx withdrawal in late 2004 cast a pall over pharmaceutical advertising as critics claimed drug makers’ splashy campaigns minimized medicines’ risks. Vioxx was a heavily advertised Merck & Co. pain reliever that was found to increase patients’ risk of heart attacks and strokes.

Earlier this year, the pharmaceutical industry adopted voluntary guidelines to improve the accuracy and balance of ads so the severity of drugs’ side effects aren’t whitewashed. That is easier to accomplish in magazine ads so drug makers are using that medium more frequently, Jon Swallen, research director at TNS.

In the first six months of this year, magazines grabbed 34% of total spent advertising drugs, up from 29% in the year-earlier period. Television ads captured 59% of the ad budgets, down from 64% a year earlier. And newspapers accounted for 3% of the total spending, essentially flat with the 2.9% in the year-earlier period.

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