On Sunday, The Boston Globe reported that the Food and Drug Administration is holding two days of hearings beginning today on Direct-to-Consumer advertising. Among the issues expected to come up at these hearings are the roles of Lance Armstrong, Dorothy Hamill, and other celebrities who are featured in advertisements for prescription drugs or pharmaceutical manufacturers.
The Globe article points out that Bristol-Myers Squibb is very concerned that the role Lance Armstrong plays in its advertising be differentiated from the involvement of many other celebrities in pharmaceutical industry advertising. It says:
Bristol-Myers Squibb hopes the FDA distinguishes between questionable past practices and current advertisements that harness celebrity star power to raise awareness of health conditions affecting millions.
"Lance has been used in corporate advertising relative to the BMS brand, not in product advertising," said Tony Plohoros, a company spokesman. "We believe there is a significant difference in advertising that focuses on corporate brand building, or disease awareness, versus individual product advertising."
Participants in the Tour of Hope should pay close attention to these hearings. I think that sponsorship of disease awareness events like the Tour of Hope are the aspect of pharmaceutical company marketing that is least likely to be changed by the Food and Drug Administration, but we have to watch carefully and react quickly if the FDA acts too aggressively.