THOUSAND OAKS, CA: Wellpoint Health Services last week gained
substantial ground in its aggressive media relations campaign urging the
FDA to change the status of three popular allergy medications from
prescription to over-the-counter (OTC).
Wellpoint retains Weber Shandwick Worldwide agency Powell Tate.
The payoff came when the majority of members of an FDA advisory panel
agreed that Claritin (Schering-Plough), Allegra (Aventis
Pharmaceuticals) and Zyrtec (Pfizer) are safe to use without a
prescription. All three pharmaceuticals oppose the move.
Much of the media coverage has pointed to financial motives for both
sides in the debate. Drug companies stand to lose from OTC pricing,
while insurers could save money if consumers no longer need a
prescription or a doctor visit to use the medication.
Edelman has helped Claritin defend its position, and both Aventis and
Schering-Plough issued press releases disagreeing with the advisory
panel ruling.The final ruling now rests with the FDA, and it is not
known when the decision will be made.