Drug Labels

Question: How many medical and communications experts does it take to write a package insert?
Answer: None. That’s a legal problem, not a medical communications problem.

Back in June I wrote about the Future of Drug Print Ads and pointed out that the “fair balance” information was atrocious — pages of teeny-weeny type, impossible to understand, and inadequate as far as presenting side affect and other information about drugs to consumers. I noted that this fair balance is often the entire professional package insert (PI) verbatim.

It turns out that there is a good reason why the package insert is unreadable — legal departments want the PI to stand as protection against product-liability lawsuits according to recent Wall Street Journal article (see “Liability Worries Cloud Drug Labels“).

The WSJ article confirms what I have already contended — “It can be a struggle to find a useful nugget in the sea of fine print accompanying most drugs.”

“Labels have become dumping grounds for drug-company legal departments seeking to ward off product-liability lawsuits. Some labels are larded with nearly every problem ever reported with the medicine, from animal tests up to widespread clinical use. The way these adverse reactions are described isn’t consistent from drug to drug, either. The sheer volume of information dilutes the power of the truly important.”

Cutback in TV Drug Advertising

Back in May there were a few signs indicating that drug companies were cutting back on TV ad spending (see “Pull Back from DTC on TV?“). It now appears that what was then feared has come to fruition.

According to USA Today “Drugmakers cut spending on network TV advertising by 10% in the first quarter from the year before, the sharpest quarterly fall-off in two years.” (see “Drugmakers cut back on television ad spending“).

“The industry spent $388.5 million on consumer drug ads on network TV in the first quarter, down about $44 million from last year, says Nielsen Monitor-Plus.”

Many in the industry now admit that 60-second TV ads are not ideal for adequately conveying drug benefits and risks and other information necessary to truly educate the consumer.