Design Of New Drug Ad Web Site Questioned

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair John Dingell (D-Mich.) and Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chair Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) on Tuesday sent a letter to FDA inquiring about the agency's decision to employ a not-for-profit group with ties to a drug marketing firm to design a new agency Web site that aims to help consumers understand drug advertisements, CQ Today reports.

The new Web site, "Be Smart About Prescription Drugs: A Guide For Consumers," was created by EthicAd, a not-for-profit organization funded by the drug marketing firm Shaw Science Partners, according to Dingell and Stupak. Shaw's clients include AstraZeneca, Merck, Pfizer, Eli Lilly, Bayer and Wyeth. According to EthicAd's Web site, EthicAd in November 2000 agreed to create FDA's drug ad information Web site. The information was compiled by EthicAd volunteers on a pro bono basis, and the FDA Web site was launched in September 2008.

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EthicAd and Shaw are located in different suites in the same Georgia building but EthicAd lists no contact information on its Web site. Shaw President Michael Shaw serves as EthicAd's executive director, according to his 2001 testimony before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.

In the letter, Dingell and Stupak asked "why FDA sought the assistance of a pharmaceutical public relations firm to help it advise consumers on how to interpret ... advertisements." Dingell in a statement said he "had serious concerns that the leading pharmaceutical companies do not share our commitment to providing consumers with accurate information about drug therapies." Dingell and Stupak sent similar letters to Michael Shaw at EthicAd and at Shaw Science Partners. Michael Shaw could not be reached for comment on Tuesday (Armstrong, CQ Today, 10/14).

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