Thursday, May 7, 2009

Viva Viagra? Not Until the Kids Are Asleep!

CNN is reporting today that Democratic Congressman Jim Moran has proposed legislation that would ban erectile dysfunction (ED) television commercials from appearing on radio and television between the hours of 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. According to the report, Moran states of the Families for ED Advertising Decency Act

This [the advertisements] is an intrusion into our daily lives that I believe has become inappropriate." Moran said in an interview with CNN. "There is a saturation of the television airwaves with these E.D. ads, and they have gotten more pervasive, more blunt, and less subtle.
There are certainly more pressing issues going on now, such as health care reform and the economy, but one wonders why no one thought of this sooner.
This is not about whether drug ads should be allowed on TV (in my opinion, they should. Drug companies have the right to advertise their products and make a profit) or whether they should be more heavily regulated (in my opinion, they should. These commercials are confusing to patients, some have been shown to be misleading, they should not appear as soon as the drug hits the market, and they should focus more on disease state). This is about content appropriateness for public airwaves.
It is interesting that the original ads for Viagra featuring Bob Dole where to increase awareness of ED, and to categorize it as a legitimate and serious disease. In my opinion, this had a positive impact on health, as many of my male patients who had previously suffered in silence were now willing to discuss this issue. However, I believe Pfizer has made a mistake by taking the completely opposite approach of making the commercials "sexy." Images like (above) the man with devil ears shaped like Viagra pills sends the wrong message about the ED or medications which treat it. I am sure that Pfizer spent a lot of money on their "Viva Viagra" campaign, but I don't know one physician that appreciates it, any know many that are disgusted.
Other content, commercial and otherwise, is already regulated by the FCC. One could make an argument that there is a double standard. Why no restrictions on oral contraceptive ads? The difference is that these ads are not "sexy" and sex is never explicitly mentioned. Under current FDA regulations, there is no way to get around warnings regarding "erections lasting four hours." This is not something one wants to explain to their young children. It is possible that this issue would not have drawn so much attention if these ads were not both so pervasive and had taken such a non-clinical, Madison Avenue approach. These companies, Pfizer in particular, have literally made their bed and now have to lie in it.
Again, probably more important things for Congress to deal with right now, but this one's a no brainer. Jim Moran is right, keep these ads off the TV until my children are in bed.

1 comment:

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