Drug Commercials

Pharmaceutical companies are well aware of the somewhat tight restrictions involved in promoting medical products such as drugs and medicine. Advertisers also need to understand the unique nature of drug marketing, specifically on the internet. There are certain rules that need to be followed, as well as things to consider in terms of targeting when it comes to advertising drugs.

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Regulations and Rules

In the USA, the Food and Drug Administration or FDA protects the public by ensuring that prescription drugs are advertised in a way that is not misleading or possibly dangerous to the public. Typically, the FDA will oversee and approve the marketing efforts of pharmaceutical companies under federal law. The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act dictates that prescription drug advertisements, both physical and online, must be accurate, not misleading, and shouldn’t include any false information that could be dangerous to consumers.

Typically, advertisers will take a direct-to-consumer (DTC) approach to advertise drugs online. Back in the day, pharmaceutical companies would typically advertise their products directly to doctors and pharmacists, not consumers or patients themselves. However, as the internet has grown in popularity and more and more consumers want to understand more about their own healthcare, DTC advertising has flourished since the 1990s. It’s worth noting that DTC advertising is perfectly legal in the United States, but there are some rules to follow when engaging in this practice.

The FDA’s mission is to ensure that businesses that manufacture prescription drugs provide plentiful information about the effects and strength of their products. According to the FDA’s website, they do this through the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research or CDER.

“Part of the mission of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER) is to ensure that companies that sell prescription drugs also provide information that is truthful, balanced, and accurately described. CDER’s Office of Prescription Drug Promotion (OPDP) oversees prescription drug ad activities. OPDP does this work by: (1) looking for and taking action against advertisements that violate the law; (2) educating industry and others about the specifics of the law; and (3) encouraging better communication of promotional information provided both to healthcare professionals and to consumers.”

Prescription Drug Commercials Online

So what can advertisers do to ensure that their DTC ads are compliant? It really isn’t that complicated. Simply follow these steps for online ads:

  • Include key components in the ad (except for the ad types we list at the end) including the name of the drug, one FDA-approved use for the drug, and the most significant possible risks of using the drug.

  • Present the benefits and risks of the drug in a balanced way. Essentially, the ad shouldn’t like ten benefits and only one risk.

  • Use simple language that is easy to understand to reduce the risk of misunderstanding.

  • For videos, a full list of a drug’s information is not required. However, the ad must tell where viewers can find more information the drug in question, whether that is through linking to a website or directing the viewer to a source of accurate information.

  • For Product Claim Ads – Name the drug, indications, and claims related to its safety and efficacy.

  • For Reminder Ads – Name the drug, its dosage, and cost (if preferred) but do not discuss the drug’s uses.

  • For Help Seeking Ads – Describe the disease, but don’t mention the drug that treats that disease.

Keep in mind that the above rules to follow involve all online ads, including drug commercial web videos, banner ads, native ads, search engine ads, etc.

There are also approaches that advertisers can take to target consumers in a way that is ethical. Namely, advertisers that run DTC ads for drugs should target audiences based on age, sex, demographic, and contextual targeting. The FDA has also dictated that brands should not target individual consumers with known medical conditions, so settling for other types of targeting is the way to go.

Advertising Drugs with Healthy Ads

At Healthy Ads, we work with advertisers in the pharmaceutical sector on a regular basis. We understand how to advertise to a business’s target audience without violating any of the FDA’s rules about online advertising for drugs. We also understand the value in taking an ethical approach with advertising that pulls in leads without being dishonest. Many of the brands we work with take a DTC approach to advertise their products, and we’re excited to pair our drug advertisers with the right websites or publishers.

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Let the Healthy Ads team walk you through all the options available to ensure that your Health, Fitness, Pharmaceutical or Medical campaign has the best possible combination of Premium Guaranteed Inventory, First Party Data and Programmatic elements.

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