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FTC Orders Novartis to Run Ads Retracting Claims About Doan's

May 28, 1999| From Bloomberg News

Novartis, the world's second-largest drug maker, was ordered by the Federal Trade Commission on Thursday to run advertisements correcting earlier statements that touted its Doan's back-pain relievers as superior to other medicines.

The ruling marks only the second time in 25 years the FTC has ordered corrective advertising in a contested case. The agency said the step was necessary to restore an even playing field in the multibillion-dollar consumer market for over-the-counter pain relievers.

The FTC said Novartis must spend $8 million on ads that include the words, "Although Doan's is an effective pain reliever, there is no evidence that Doan's is more effective than other pain relievers for back pain."

The firm must make similar disclosures on its packaging for a year.

"Requiring the dissemination of a truthful message to counteract beliefs created or reinforced by [Novartis'] deceptive message is an appropriate method of . . . denying [the company] the ability to continue to profit from its deception," Commissioner Sheila Anthony wrote.

Novartis could appeal the order in federal court. "We are seriously considering this option," said Kate King, a spokeswoman for the company's Novartis Consumer Health unit, based in Summit, N.J.

The FTC took on a drug that has been marketed for more than 90 years as a backache product. From 1987 to 1996, Novartis' corporate predecessor, Ciba-Geigy Corp., said Doan's was better for back pain than competing products.

The disputed ads, which took the form of TV and radio ads and newspaper inserts, cost Ciba-Geigy more than $65 million.

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