- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 11, 2005

New York drug giant Pfizer Inc. has adopted a series of changes in the way it advertises to consumers that go beyond the industry’s new voluntary guidelines.

Pfizer said yesterday that it will wait at least six months before marketing a new drug that has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. The company plans to use that time to educate doctors about the drug’s use and side effects.

Additionally, Pfizer promised to market its erectile dysfunction drug, Viagra, only during television shows with a 90 percent adult audience. The new policies are expected to be in effect by the end of the year.

Most of the company’s other changes follow guidelines that were released last week by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, a Washington trade group.

Those guidelines include submitting prescription-drug ads to the FDA for prior approval and adding more information about a drug’s side effects in an ad.

The drug industry’s advertising policy changes came after several lawmakers and consumer groups called on the FDA to exercise more authority over prescription-drug ads.

Doctors’ pay rises

General surgeons received the highest pay raise last year, according to a report that was released this week by RSM McGladrey Inc., a Bloomington, Minn., consulting firm.

Their pay on average rose nearly 9 percent to $294,000 from an average salary of $270,005 in 2003, the report said. RSM McGladrey surveyed 197 medical groups, representing more than 34,000 physicians nationwide.

Primary-care specialists, which included general surgeons, pediatricians and family doctors, experienced a 6 percent to 8 percent jump in their salaries in 2004 after years of more modest increases, the report said.

HMO profits up

Profits for the nation’s health maintenance organizations jumped nearly 11 percent last year, according to a report released this week by Weiss Ratings Inc., a Jupiter, Fla., rating agency.

Health insurers’ earnings rose to $11.4 billion in 2004 from $10.3 billion in 2003, said Weiss, which studied 515 managed care organizations. That comes after an 80 percent surge in profits in 2003.

The industry’s income increased as health insurers continue to consolidate, with more consumers being covered by larger carriers, the report said. Health insurers with 500,000 members or more held 59 percent of the market in 2004, compared with 46 percent five years earlier.

Drug’s European approval

Silver Spring biotechnology company United Therapeutics Corp. said Wednesday that it has received approval to sell Remodulin in 22 European countries.

The company sells the prescription injection, which treats pulmonary hypertension, in the U.S., Canada, Australia, Switzerland, Israel and Argentina.

United will be able to market the drug in Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia and Sweden.

The “Health Care” column runs every Friday. Call Marguerite Higgins at 202/636-4892 or e-mail her at mhiggins@washingtontimes.com.

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