FDA to Examine Hepatitis C Campaign

ByABC News
September 14, 2000, 12:06 PM

W A S H I N G T O N, Sept. 14 -- U.S. regulators said today they would review whether Schering-Plough Corp.violated federal rules on advertising and promotion with acampaign that could boost sales of the companys hepatitis Ctreatment.

A Food and Drug Administration spokeswoman said the agencywould examine documents uncovered by The Washington Post, whichreported Tuesday that Schering-Plough was waging an aggressivecampaign to raise awareness of hepatitis C.

The campaign could help increase sales of Schering-PloughsRebetron, the drug considered the gold standard for treatingthe liver-destroying disease, and may violate FDA rules, thePost said. Rebetron treatment costs $18,000 a year.

The FDA spokeswoman said the newspaper had offered toprovide documents regarding the campaign to the agency.

FDA May Review

We said we would review them if we receive them, thespokeswoman said.

While regulators encourage companies to support educationalcampaigns, FDA officials want to know the extent ofSchering-Ploughs influence and control over informationprovided by coalitions that were billed as grass-rootsorganizations, the Post said.

Also, FDA officials are looking into whether the Madison,N.J.,-based company may have violated federal advertising rulesby billing a marketing campaign as an educational effort, thePost reported.

The FDA spokeswoman said she could not comment further onthe Schering-Plough case. The FDA routinely reviews drugcompany promotion activities, she said.

Any time someone has documents that demonstrate possibleillegal promotional activity, wed like to see them, shesaid.

The Washington Post reported that Schering-Plough paidpublic-relations executives to recruit volunteers, packageeducational materials and lobby state legislatures to spendmore money to treat hepatitis C and raise awareness.

No Comment from Company

The executives, who portrayed themselves as members of thegroups, also directed people to toll-free numbers paid for bySchering-Plough, the Post said.