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PAL partner Prescription Project calls on FDA to crack down on illegal Internet medical device ads

Posted Dec 05 2008 8:01am

This past Wednesday, the Prescription Project, a sister project to PAL at our parent organization, Community Catalyst, filed four petitions with the FDA raising concerns about online advertising of medical devices and drugs on YouTube.com. The petitions cited ads posted on YouTube by Abbott Laboratories (NYSE: ABT), Medtronic (NYSE: MDT) and Stryker (NYSE: SYK).

Within hours, the two videos about Medtronic and Stryker’s devices cited by the Prescription Project were removed, and the remaining videos about an Abbott Laboratoriess device were labeled with safety information, and removed from public access the next day.

The Prescription Project’s petitions have gotten widespread media attention, including articles in the Wall Street Journal, Associated Press, Crain’s Chicago Business, Chicago Tribune, Minneapolis Star Tribune, and Pioneer Press.

The Prescription Project’s press release on the petition is here.

Here is the entry from PostScript, the Prescription Project’s blog, about the request for FDA action:

Devicemakers’ bypass marketing rules on YouTube
December 3rd, 2008

Today the Prescription Project filed a series of citizen petitions with the FDA asking that six YouTube videos be removed immediately from the self-broadcast internet supersite because they appear to have been posted by medical device manufacturers, but do not contain the federally-mandated warnings or provisions required of medical device advertisements.

The videos include four posted by Abbott Laboratories about its XIENCE-V drug eluting stent, one for Medtronic’s Prestige® Cervical Disc, and one for Stryker’s Cormet™ Hip Resurfacing Technology. Here they are.

The Prescription Project is petitioning the FDA, which is charged with regulating the marketing of approved medical devices as well as prescription drugs, to require the makers to remove the ads from YouTube immediately and to post “curative” ads that contain the proper risk information. In addition, the Project calls on the FDA to:

• Advise all major prescription drug manufacturers and medical device manufacturers that online/Internet drug and device advertisements and promotions are subject to the same requirements as drug and device promotions in other media, and recommend that they review their online advertisements for compliance.

• Issue a Guidance on Consumer-Directed Broadcast Advertising of Prescription Drugs and Restricted Devices on the Internet to clarify how federal law and FDA regulations apply to online drug and device promotions.

But who watches YouTube for info about health, anyway? Well, it seems that number is growing rapidly. According to a 2007 survey conducted by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, somewhere between 75% and 80% of internet users have looked online for health information. And a Manhattan Research poll about physician online habits released just last month found that 83% of physicians watch video clips online, as compared with 34% of all US adults.

So statistically, these ads are being seen by both patients and doctors. And without the proper risk information that’s required in other broadcast drug device advertising, that’s a problem.
In fact, we think it’s an even bigger problem because consumers injured by medical devices can no longer sue device manufacturers for failing to warn them about known but undisclosed risks, a result of the February 2008 Supreme Court decision in Riegel v. Medtronic. And consumers injured by prescription drugs may well lose that same right if the Supreme Court issues a similar ruling in Wyeth v. Levine, a case argued before the Court last month.

To read the petitions and view the videos, go here.

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