Are Erectile Dysfunction Ads Too Sexy?

Va. Rep. Jim Moran wants to limit the hours erectile dysfunction ads air on TV.

May 15, 2009 — -- Television commercials showcasing romantic couples who have been able to overcome their sexual obstacles, thanks to erectile dysfunction pharmaceutical drugs, have become too plentiful and explicit, according to one congressman.

Rep. Jim Moran, D-Va., is proposing legislation that would ban the ads between the hours of 6 a.m. and 10 p.m.

"There just ought to be some limits," he said.

His hope is that nobody will ever have to hear, "If you have an erection lasting four hours, consult your physician," while sitting with a child.

Moran is not suggesting the commercials are pornographic, just that they aren't family fare.

"I do object, when you're sitting around with the kids, to be warning people about a four-hour erection. That's not appropriate," Moran said. "I have no problem with the product. I have a problem with advertising it."

On Thursday, he sent letters to the CEOs of Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline and Eli Lilly, the makers of Viagra, Levitra and Cialis, respectively, warning them to "limit and moderate" their 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 between the hours of 6 a.m. and 10 p.m.

In his letters, the lawmaker said the three drug makers spent more than $300 million advertising in 2007, and pointed 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.

This isn't the first time Moran has introduced such legislation. He did so in 2005, but withdrew it after the drug companies promised to tone down their ads.

Moran said the threat of legislation worked for a time, but he now claims the ads have become "more pervasive and explicit."

But with as many as 30 million men suffering from erectile dysfunction, the market is ripe for the makers of Viagra, Cialis and Levitra, who insist they are committed to responsible advertising.

"Our goal ... is to reach the people who would be most likely to benefit," a Pfizer statement said.

"We target programming that primarily appeals to men 50 plus," a GlaxoSmithKline statement said.

ABC News' Tom Shine and Theresa Cook contributed to this report.

Check the next page for the drug companies' full statements.

Sidebar: Read the Drug Companies' Full Statements

GlaxoSmithKline's Full Statement

GSK is committed to responsible promotion of our medicines, and we file all Levitra television advertising with the FDA. Levitra ads are medically and educationally focused, and emphasize that erectile dysfunction, which impacts millions of American men, is linked to other serious health conditions, such as high cholesterol, diabetes and high blood pressure. Our goal is to encourage men to proactively partner with their doctor on an appropriate health management plan.

We voluntarily limit advertising of Levitra. The audience must be at least 90 percent adult, and we target programming that primarily appeals to men 50+. All spots are off air between 6 a.m. and 8 a.m. We also do not air during weekend movies between 6 a.m. and 8 p.m., and do not advertise on live sporting events before 9 p.m.

Pfizer's Full Statement

Consumers need and want readily available, easy-to-understand health information. Advertisements for prescription medicines provide clear information about medical conditions and treatments and motivate consumers to have productive conversations with their physicians. Pfizer is committed to responsible advertising. We are continually looking for ways to improve our advertising.

Our goal in advertising our products is to reach the people who would be most likely to benefit from them. In line with our policies and the policies of the industry, Viagra advertising is aired in shows most likely to be reach men suffering from erectile dysfunction. ED can be a signal for other serious medical issues, including high blood pressure, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Eli Lilly's Full Statement

To address the question of "self-regulation," I think it is important to note that we only buy advertising for Cialis that meets the requirement of having at least a 90 percent adult viewership. We recognize that ED is a sensitive medical condition and are thoughtful both about the content of our advertising and ensuring that our commercials are broadcast during programs that men over 40 are watching.

The main goal of all of our direct-to-consumer ads is to educate and inform. The Cialis commercials are straightforward and sincere and the content is open and honest about ED.