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Web Giants Urge FDA to Update Ad Guidelines

Google and Yahoo join forces with drug makers at Internet marketing hearing

FRIDAY, Nov. 13 (HealthDay News) -- Internet giants Google and Yahoo have lined up with the pharmaceutical industry in asking the U.S. government to draft new rules that would give drug companies more latitude to advertise online.

Current U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulations require that any mention of a drug's benefits must also reveal its risks, including detailed lists of side effects. But drug makers and Web companies attending a two-day hearing this week on online marketing of medical products said the rule hampers them, given online space constraints.

"We need to get some adjustment to the way the medium is used because it's very different from print and broadcast -- that's the main challenge," Yahoo Vice President David Zinman said in an interview Thursday, the Associated Press reported.

With room for only a few words on advertising links, the Web marketers say they can't hail the benefits of their products.

Yahoo and its competitor, Google, are proposing new types of ads -- ones that would carry links to detailed drug information.

"We're going to propose ways to get balanced and relevant advertising to consumers that is transparent," said Mary Ann Belliveau, Google's director of health-care advertising, according to the AP.

Their proposals are in line with the wishes of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, the drug industry's lobby, which proposed that ads contain an FDA logo to link consumers to risk information.

But consumer health advocates warned that using the FDA's logo might be perceived as an endorsement by the federal agency.

Only 3 percent of the more than $4.3 billion that pharmaceutical companies spent on consumer advertising last year went for online marketing, the AP said.

The hearings are to conclude Friday. The FDA has not said when it expects to release new guidelines, but some industry experts have said they don't anticipate them before 2011.

More information

For more on Internet drug ads, go to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

-- Margaret Steele

SOURCE: Associated Press, Nov. 12, 2009

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