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Report on advertising built on erroneous figures

Media Release

26 February 2003


Report on direct-to-consumer advertising built on erroneous figures

Novartis New Zealand has strongly criticised a report to the Minister of Health “For Health or for Profit” written by Professor Toop et al that calls for the ban of direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertising of prescription drugs.

Andrew Moore, managing director of Novartis New Zealand, said he had grave concerns for the robustness and validity of the report, especially since figures reported on Novartis’ product Lamisil were grossly misrepresented. Lamisil is an antifungal treatment.

“The authors of the report have slapped together the advertising figures for our Lamisil cream, a product available in pharmacies, and Lamisil tablets, which are available only on prescription. This error in the basic definition between a prescription medicine and an over-the-counter product seriously undermines the soundness of the data for the rest of the report,” said Mr Moore.

Novartis approached the authors late last week for clarification of their research methodology for the Lamisil products and requested a public retraction. Novartis was disappointed with the authors not taking immediate responsibility for the errors in the report.

“Professor Toop has taken no responsibility for this misrepresentation, he has admitted that he simply took Pharmac’s figures as read, and did not properly confirm the details with Novartis at any stage of his research,” said Mr Moore.

“He’s referred us back to Pharmac and said he’d be interested in their response!”

The report claims that Novartis spent a total of $764,221 on television and magazine advertising covering both the prescription and over-the-counter indications of Lamisil in 2001.

In fact, Novartis says its audited accounts for 2001 show that spending on direct-to-consumer advertising of Lamisil tablets (prescription only drug used for more serious skin, nail and scalp diseases) was less than 10 per cent of the amount quoted in the DTC report.

“Our reported consumer advertising spend on Lamisil in the DTC report had been sourced from Pharmac and at no stage has Novartis been approached to verify any of the figures. Good research procedure has not been followed and this omission must be very embarrassing for the authors.

“Our extensive market research strongly reinforces the fact that many patients want more information than doctors normally have the time to provide during the patient consultation. Direct-to-consumer marketing is an effective way to inform the public, through television and print, about new and existing prescription medicines, and health conditions,” said Mr Moore.

“Consumer advertising for prescription medicines directs people to their doctors. The next step is for an individual to go and see his or her health professional to talk about treatment options for their condition. Ultimately, the doctor makes the decision about what is the best treatment, in consultation with the patient.

“It is insulting to doctors to imply that direct-to-consumer advertising takes that vital role away from them.”

Ends

About Novartis

Novartis AG is a world leader in healthcare with core businesses in pharmaceuticals, consumer health, generics, eye-care, and animal health. In 2000, the Novartis Group's ongoing businesses achieved collective sales of US$17.2 billion and a net income of US$3.9 billion. The Group invested approximately US$2.4 billion in R&D. Novartis AG is headquartered in Basel, Switzerland. Novartis Group companies employ about 70,000 people and operate in more than 140 countries around the world. For further information please consult http://www.novartis.com.


ENDS

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