Direct-to-consumer drug advertising is coming under fire from another camp.
Two cardiologists write in "The New England Journal of Medicine" that Johnson and Johnson's first-of-its kind TV commercial for a heart stent is aimed at "millions of people who are ill-equipped to make judgments" about the device.
Ads for drugs have been on the air for years, but the doctors claim the stent spot, called "Life Wide Open," is "potentially deceptive" because it leaves out many of the stent's possible side effects. The cardiologists are calling on the Food and Drug Administration to take a "critical" look at the commercial.
Ads for drugs often prompt patients to request by name a prescription from their doctor, but the authors of the article say the idea of someone going to a physician tp ask for a specific stent brand or model "is frightening, if not utterly absurd."
In a prepared statement, J&J says the ad contains the appropriate amount of side effect information for a TV commercial, and that it was reviewed by the FDA before it aired. The company says the spot is designed to get patients to talk to their doctors, which it calls "a worthwhile goal." J&J says it's pleased with the results of the ad so far.
J&J makes the drug-coated stent called "Cypher," which is the number two stent behind one made by Boston Scientific. The tiny wire mesh tube is used to prop open clogged arteries.
The safety of drug-coated stents has become the subject of ongoing debate over the last couple of years, but the controversy has subsided somewhat recently, and the expensive, highly-profitable devices have made a bit of a comeback.
One of the two cardiologists who wrote the NEJM article has received grant support from Abbott Labs, which is awaiting FDA approval for a drug-coated stent that would compete with Cypher.