Drug Makers Warned to Curb ‘Explicit’ Erectile Dysfunction Ads

By Theresa Cook

May 14, 2009 12:06pm

ABC News’ Tom Shine and Theresa Cook report:  The ads are seemingly unavoidable, showing couples recapturing the romance after an erectile dysfunction pill takes care of the problem getting in the way.

Today, Rep. Jim Moran, D-Va., sent letters to the CEOs of Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline, and Eli Lilly, respectively the makers of Viagra, Levitra and Cialis, warning them to "limit and moderate" those erectile dysfunction ads most common during sports and evening news broadcasts or face congressional legislation that would require the FCC to label them indecent and ban them during the hours of 6 a.m. and 10 p.m.

Moran introduced similar legislation in 2005, but withdrew it when the drug companies promised to tone down the ads.  Moran says the threat of legislation worked for a time, but now claims the ads have become "more pervasive and explicit." 

In his letters, the lawmaker says the three drug makers spent more than $300 million advertising in 2007, and points out that "Cialis’ advertising expenditures were up to $152 million in 2007, more than 250 percent over 2006." 

“These drugs generate billions of dollars in annual sales for their manufacturers who, in turn, have made every attempt to increase their market share for these lifestyle drugs through increasingly aggressive marketing campaigns,” Moran wrote.

“Many parents I talk with are frustrated and annoyed by the overwhelming presence of these ads during programs they watch with their children,” he continued, noting that the ads’ presence makes for awkward family time.

“Parents should be able to watch a football game with their kids without having to either mute the television or explain the side effects of a life enhancement drug.”

Moran points out that the FCC regulates what TV networks are allowed to broadcast, and parental controls exist to help parents further control what their children are able to see.  But “neither option prevents embarrassing and inappropriate commercials from being broadcast into our homes,” Moran writes.

Last month, Moran introduced H.R. 2175, the “Families for ED Advertising Decency Act,” which, if passed, will direct the FCC to revise its policies to include the racy ads in its restrictions on indecent material between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m.

Moran ends his letters with a plea and a warning:  "I hope that you will consider these concerns and take it upon yourself to limit and moderate this sort of advertising.  If the industry continues to prove incapable of self-regulation, H.R. 2175 exists to address our concerns."

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