"For the first time, the Food and Drug Administration on Friday warned 14 of the world's leading pharmaceutical companies about misleading Internet ads that appear when people do online queries for their medical products through search engines such as Google.
The FDA said the ads are misleading because they omit risk information associated with the products.
Companies that received the letters include Biogen Idec Inc. (BIIB), Sanofi- Aventis (SNY), Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK).
Biogen received a warning letter for its multiple-sclerosis drug Tysabri. The ads say "A Multiple Sclerosis Treatment That's Different from the Others" or " Satisfied with your MS Medication or Looking for Something Different?" but don't include any risk information.
"Their casual approach to Tysabri treatment is extraordinary in light of the potentially lethal risks of the drug and the stringent controls over its distribution," the FDA said in its letter to Biogen on March 26. The letter was posted on the agency's Web site Friday.
Biogen's ad includes a link to the Web site for the drug, which does contain the relevant risk information. The FDA said the link "does not mitigate the misleading omission of risk information from these promotional materials."