The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia has unanimously upheld a Federal Trade Commission decision ordering the maker of Doan's Pills to run corrective advertising. The Court's opinion denied Novartis Corporation's appeal of the 1999 FTC order requiring it to include in future advertisements and labels a message to correct misbeliefs created by deceptive advertising claims for Doan's Pills. The ads claimed that Doan's was more effective than other pain relievers for the relief of back pain. In fact, the Commission found that there was no scientific evidence supporting those claims.
FTC Chairman Robert Pitofsky said, "It is important for advertisers to know that it is not enough just to discontinue a deceptive ad, and that they can be held responsible for the lingering misimpressions created by deceptive advertising. Today's opinion by the Court of Appeals reaffirms the FTC's longstanding authority to order advertisers to correct those misimpressions in appropriate cases."
The Commission's order prohibited Novartis from making future unsubstantiated claims and required Doan's advertising and packaging to include the following statement:
"Although Doan's is an effective pain reliever, there is no evidence that Doan's is more effective than other pain relievers for back pain."
The Commission ordered that Doan's advertising and packaging include the corrective statement for one year and until Novartis had spent $8 million on advertising (the average sum spent annually on the deceptive campaign). The requirement is subject to an overall limitation of five years.
Novartis appealed the Commission's decision to the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. The unanimous panel rejected the appeal, finding that the Commission had appropriately concluded both that Doan's 8 year $65 million ad campaign advertising was deceptive and that it had played a substantial role in creating and reinforcing in the public's mind a false belief about the product's efficacy.
Copies of the legal documents associated with this case are available from the FTC's web site at http://www.ftc.gov and also from the FTC's Consumer Response Center, Room 130, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580; toll free at 877-FTC-HELP (877-382-4357); TDD for the hearing impaired 1-866-653-4261. To find out the latest news as it is announced, call the FTC NewsPhone recording at 202-326-2710.
Claudia Bourne Farrell
Office of Public Affairs
C. Lee Peeler
Bureau of Consumer Protection