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ATTORRNEYS GENERAL ARE MONITORING SPIRIN HEART ATTACK PREVENTION ADVERTISING

Executive Summary

Rorer has struck an agreement with the Attorneys General of New York and Texas, not to promote to consumers its Ascriptin brand aspirin for the prevention of first-time heart attacks. In accordance with the agreement, signed June 15, Rorer said it will no longer run "The Aspirin You Can Live With" full-page ad that ran in major newspapers on Feb. 10, and in Time and Newsweek magazines on Feb. 15 "as it appeared" in those publications in New York or Texas. The ad referred to the results of the Physicians Health Study on aspirin's use in the prevention of first heart attacks in healthy patients, and included a picture of the New York Times article on the study. Rorer also has agreed not to "resume any advertising . . . in New York or Texas, which promotes consumers' use of Ascriptin or any other aspirin product as beneficial in the prevention of first-time heart attacks, until federal guidelines are promulgated." Rorer's agreements with the Attorneys General, practically speaking, should have little impact on the company's ad plans. In early March, Rorer was one of ten aspirin marketers that agreed to stop promoting aspirin for the prevention of MI until FDA approval of the claim following a meeting with Commissioner Young. Over the last six months, state attorneys general have shown an increasing interest in the regulation of consumer ads stemming from a perception that the Federal Trade Commission has left a void in the oversight of such advertising. New York State Attorney General Robert Abrams and Attorney General of Texas Jim Mattox initiated the inquiry into Rorer's advertising of Ascriptin. According to Mattox' office, attorneys have looked into similar aspirin advertising by other pharmaceutical companies. However, Rorer was the only company whose ads were investigated. The offices of the attorneys general sent Rorer a Feb. 11 letter objecting to the Ascriptin ad and requesting that the company discontinue the placement of the ad or any similar ad. The attorneys general determined that Rorer's advertising does not provide "adequate directions for use" and misleads the public into using aspirin to prevent first-time heart attacks without first consulting a doctor," the agreement says. Accordingly, Rorer has "engaged in conduct violative of their states' consumer protection statutes." In the agreement, Rorer stated that its Ascriptin ad was "a legitimate and lawful response" to the Physician's Health Study. The company noted that the ad "is not violative" of either of the states laws, and that it is not "misleading." Rorer also agreed to pay $ 15,000 each to the states of New York and Texas "solely as reimbursement for the costs of investigation and not as penalties."

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