Those of us who spend our days at the intersection of law and advertising of health products generally accept that the prescription drug world is a universe unto itself, overseen by the FDA pursuant to the Prescription Drug Marketing Act. As prescription drug companies have increased their direct-to-consumer outreach through social media, native advertising, and health information platforms, questions have arisen as to the role that the NAD might play in regulating these advertisements. For those who are unfamiliar, the NAD is the National Advertising Division of the Better Business Bureau. It is an industry self-regulatory body that is charged with hearing and rendering decisions in advertising disputes, typically among competitors. It is commonly used amongst advertisers of consumer-directed products and services. It is not commonly used amongst prescription drug advertisers and, until recently, many likely assumed that NAD did not have jurisdiction to hear prescription drug advertising challenges.
A relatively recent NAD decision makes clear that that body believes that it has jurisdiction over prescription product advertising, however. Late last year, the NAD evaluated advertising by Synergy Pharmaceuticals for its Trulance product, which is prescribed for chronic idiopathic constipation. Allergan, maker of a competing product, challenged the advertising on the basis that it included false implied superiority claims, expressly false superiority claims, and undisclosed native advertising in the form of a waiting room pamphlet that allegedly was positioned as independent and impartial patient education material.