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This article was originally published in The Tan Sheet

Executive Summary

NDMA HIRES PORTER NOVELLI FOR OTC INDUSTRY PUBLIC RELATIONS EFFORT that will focus on public education and alliance building, Schering-Plough HealthCare President David Collins announced March 7 in his chairman's address during the association's annual meeting in Naples, Fla. The message of the Nonprescription Drug Manufacturers Association's campaign, Collins said, will be "that OTCs are safe, effective, fully labeled, cost efficient, closely regulated and essential to our health care system." The program, Collins said, will address what he characterized as the "persistent criticisms from Congress, the media, pharmacy interests and consumer activists." He declared that the OTC industry "must respond with a proactive program of public education to tell more widely the positive story of self- medication, and to address the weak spots in the public perception of the industry." The campaign will focus on "special publics" including "community leaders, parents, the elderly, health professionals, consumer leaders and the media," Collins noted. He said the association will attempt to "reach out with facts and information to keep old allies, make new ones and to better inform those consumers who are our customers." The intent of the public relations program, Collins added, is "more than general climate building. It is meant to help us better manage specific issues vital to our future -- national uniformity in regulation, for example." Porter Novelli was chosen by NDMA after a seven-month search, Collins reported. NDMA said that the contract represents a "major program commitment" on the part of the association. "This is a sea change from the past when we as an industry tended to hunker down behind our offices in Washington," Collins stated, adding: "That approach is now too narrow to fully serve the interests of this industry." The association indicated that its decision to embark on the program, in part, reflects NDMA's concern with the "volatility" of the current political climate -- illustrated by the new administration's targeting of the prescription drug industry in its early salvos in the healthcare reform debate. While OTCs have remained in the distant background so far in the process, the scope of the undertaking suggests that the industry may have cause for concern (see story below).

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