Banner: Maryland Attorney General J. Joseph Curran, Jr.
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For Immediate Release
January 6, 2003
Contact: Sean Caine, 410-576-6357


Attorney General J. Joseph Curran, Jr. today announced that his Consumer Protection Division, along with the offices of 18 other state Attorneys General, settled an investigation into Pfizer, Inc.’s "direct-to-consumer" advertising for its Zithromax product as a treatment for severe ear infections in young children. The Attorneys General alleged that the advertisements misrepresented the efficacy of Zithromax in comparison to other antibiotics used to treat such ear infections by focusing on the dosing convenience and reduced frequency of use of the product without disclosing that various factors, including antibiotic resistance, need to be considered when a physician chooses an antibiotic to treat ear infections.

In agreeing to the settlement, Pfizer did not admit any wrongdoing but agreed to make changes to its advertisements for Zithromax. In addition, Pfizer will pay a total of $4 million to the states, with Maryland receiving $125,000, and will fund public service announcements in the amount of $2 million during the next three cold seasons (November through March). The announcements will tell parents that doctors must consider a number of factors when deciding what medicine to prescribe, including antibiotic resistance, the ineffectiveness of antibiotics in combating viral infections, and the need for adherence to the dosing regimen.

"Consumers should not demand that their doctor write a prescription for a particular product based on an advertisement they saw on television," Attorney General Curran advised. "Rather, consumers should discuss all possible treatments and available drugs with their doctor to arrive at the best decision regarding whether they, or their children, should take medication in any given situation, and if so, which one."

Under the settlement, Pfizer:

• may not make representations regarding the dosing convenience or frequency of Zithromax without making this disclosure: "Your Doctor will consider many factors when choosing an antibiotic, dosing convenience is only one of them",

• may not compare the effectiveness of Zithromax for treatment of ear infections to other antibiotics without making this disclosure: "Antibiotic resistance is a consideration that may affect your Doctor’s choice of treatment for your child’s ear infection", and

• must include the following disclosure in all direct-to-consumer ads promoting Zithromax for ear infections: "Remember that antibiotics don’t work for viral infections, such as a cold or flu, so don't insist on a prescription for an antibiotic. Only your doctor can decide what type of infection your child has and the best way to treat it."

Additionally, if Zithromax ads relating to dosing convenience, frequency of use or effectiveness refer to scientific studies, Pfizer must also state whether the study was published and peer reviewed and whether Pfizer paid for the study. Pfizer must also, upon request, make a summary of the study or the full study available to consumers and health care professionals, as well as posting the study or a summary on its Internet site.

In addition to Maryland, the other states involved in the investigation and settlement were Arizona, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Florida, Kansas, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, and Wisconsin.

Pfizer, Inc. is incorporated in Delaware, and has its headquarters in New York, N.Y.



Attorney General of Maryland 1 (888) 743-0023 toll-free / TDD: (410) 576-6372
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