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This article was originally published in The Tan Sheet

Executive Summary

SANDOZ AGREES TO MODIFY TRIAMINIC PROMOTIONAL CLAIMS following a Jan. 19 ruling by a National Advertising Review Board panel that the claims are "misleading." Claims on Triaminic principal display panels and ads that Triaminic is the "#1 pediatrician recommended brand for coughs and colds," the "#1 pediatrician recommended cough and cold brand for five years in a row," and "pediatrician recommended #1" should "be discontinued" until more precise claims are developed, according to an NARB panel report released March 5. In response to the NARB's finding, Sandoz said it "reluctantly accepts the panel's decision and will address the panel's concerns in its current claims development and substantiation efforts," the panel report states. Sandoz also pointed out that Triaminic advertising for the 1992-1993 cold season has already ended. Bloom/FCA! of New York handled the Triaminic account for Sandoz. The NARB panel found that confidential pediatrician survey results presented by Sandoz "demonstrated that the Triaminic brand was recommended by more pediatricians than other brands only with respect to cough and cold symptoms in combination, and therefore could be used only in connection with products boldly labeled for combined symptoms." When pediatrician recommendations were surveyed with "respect to cough symptoms and with respect to cold symptoms separately," the panel found that other brands generated more recommendations than Triaminic. The panel also was troubled by the "lack of precise meaning of terms and language used -- both in the confidential surveys and the resulting claims," the report says. For example, the panel decided that the phrase "coughs and colds" was ambiguous. The panel questioned whether the phrase "coughs and colds" in the claim "conveyed to consumers the meaning of 'coughs in combination with colds,' 'coughs as well as colds,' or 'either coughs or colds.'" The "cough and cold" claim itself "would not be universally understood as pertaining only to cold and cough symptoms in combination," the panel concluded. The panel suggested that it is "likely that a significant number of parents would interpret the claim 'recommended for coughs and colds' as meaning that Triaminic products were '#1' for coughs and '#1' for colds." NARB acknowledged, however, that it was Sandoz' intention to claim "'#1 pediatrician recommended' for the combined symptoms of cough and colds rather than each of them separately." Regardless, "if a claim has the potential for misleading significant numbers of reasonable customers, it needs to be modified to eliminate that confusion -- a conclusion that has particular force when applied to a health claim for a product used by children," the panel ruled. NARB observed that more precise language for Triaminic advertising was "readily available to the advertiser from its own product labels." For instance, the report explains, "one label describes the indication as 'coughs with colds.' Such phraseology, unlike that used with the claims in question, leaves no room for doubt that the product is designed for combination symptoms," the panel report states. NARB also found that the same ambiguity in the claim language "was replicated by the survey questions" to pediatricians, "thereby raising the possibility that some pediatrician respondents may also have interpreted the question in a manner other than was intended." Sandoz "may wish to consider this in any new surveys it conducts to support similar claims in the future," NARB said. The panel also suggested that Sandoz reconsider the methodology employed in the surveys, which were based primarily on "the recall of pediatricians as to which OTC cough and cold products they had recommended -- which may or may not be representative of actual recommendations made during the course of the physician's practice." The NARB panel decision amends an earlier determination by the National Advertising Division of the Council of Better Business Bureaus. NAD had decided that the claim "#1 pediatrician recommended brand for coughs and colds" was substantiated based on the confidential survey of pediatricians. However, in light of findings provided by A. H. Robins Consumer that competitive products were recommended most often when the indication was to mitigate the symptoms of either a cough or a cold, NAD decided that the #1 claim should not be used in conjunction with Triaminic products "boldly labeled as designed to relieve specific cough or cold symptoms separately," according to the NARB panel report. Robins, a subsidiary of American Home Products that makes Robitussin and Dimetapp products, filed the initial complaint with NAD regarding Sandoz' Triaminic advertising. After NAD's decision, Sandoz sought NARB review of the NAD verdict based on its belief that the #1 claim is "appropriate when applied to individual products that contain both a cough and a cold remedy (ingredient) and are labeled as such, even if not in the bold print NAD" recommended, the panel report relates. Robins had requested NARB adjudication of certain issues not contained in Sandoz' appeal to NARB, such as the adequacy of the surveys.

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