Pharma Reduced Paid Search by 84% Following FDA Warnings

Last Updated Oct 7, 2009 2:29 PM EDT

Pharma companies all but abandoned paid search ads after the FDA sent warning letters to 14 drug marketers in March, according to Ad Age. ComScore said:
... paid search ads by pharmaceutical companies dropped a whopping 84% between March 26 of this year and the end of June.
March 26 was the date the FDA sent warning letters regarding 48 online drug ads that it cited as misleading. Each of the ads was one of those little, single-line-of-text ads that pops up next to real results when you search in Google. Bayer's ad for Levitra said merely:
Poor Blood Flow & ED; Blood Flow May Decrease With High Blood Pressure And May Lead to ED
Rather than come up with an innovative way around the FDA's position, most companies bailed on the category, Comscore said:
ComScore said sponsored link exposures (paid search) to U.S. web users dropped 59% in the first week alone after the warning letters were issued, from 10.5 million paid search ads to 4.3 million between March 29 and April 5,
The result was that searching for information about drugs on the internet actually became harder, according to John Mangano, a vp at ComScore:
"Here's a perfect example," Mr. Mangano said. "When the swine flu was at its peak in the spring, if you searched for 'swine flu' there were a lot of pharma brands that didn't come up â€" but Clorox did. Go figure."
That news will probably be used to bash the FDA at its upcoming hearings into pharma marketers' use of web 2.0 and social media. Drug companies' entire case in favor of increased rights to advertise on the web is that they're merely educating consumers about health issues.