McNeil, Shering-Plough Participate In NAD Forum

New York, NY – Sept. 30, 2008 – The National Advertising Division of the Council of Better Business Bureaus examined performance claims concerning McNeil Consumer Healthcare’s Zyrtec allergy medicine which were challenged by Schering-Plough HealthCare Products, Inc., the manufacturer of Claritin, a competing allergy medicine. 

NAD, the advertising industry’s self-regulatory forum, examined print and Internet advertising claims that included:

  • “Zyrtec® starts working 2 hours* faster than Claritin®. And it keeps working on your indoor and outdoor allergy symptoms for 24 hours.”
    • “*Based on onset of action studies with ZYRTEC 10 mg vs. Claritin and Placebo.  Significant relief vs. Claritin at 1 Hour, the first time period evaluated.”
  • “MISSING: 2 Hours.  Last Seen: While waiting for Claritin® to start working.  If found please call 1-800-4-Zyrtec.”
  • “Ever watch someone waiting for their Claritin® to kick in?  It could take a very long time.  Zyrtec® starts working 2 hours faster than Claritin®.”
    • “*Based on onset of action studies in a pollen chamber with ZYRTEC 10 mg vs. Claritin and Placebo.  Significant relief vs. Claritin at 1 Hour.”

NAD determined that the claim “Zyrtec® starts working 2 hours* faster than Claritin®” communicates the inaccurate message that the onset of action is 2 hours faster than Claritin for every dose, not just the first dose, and that Zyrtec starts working immediately.  Accordingly, NAD recommended that the advertisements be modified to clarify that the onset of action is as to the first dose only and that Zyrtec begins to work after one hour. 

NAD examined the advertiser’s clinical testing, namely head-to-head comparative studies of the drugs.  NAD determined that the advertiser’s clinical testing constituted a reasonable basis for the advertiser’s “Zyrtec® starts working 2 hours* faster than Claritin®” claim and that the challenger’s studies were not sufficiently robust to rebut the advertiser’s studies.  As such, NAD determined that the advertiser’s comparative onset of action claims were substantiated.

With regard to the claim “and it keeps working on your indoor and outdoor allergy symptoms for 24 hours,” NAD determined that consumers could reasonably interpret this claim to mean that this is another reason for them to choose Zyrtec over Claritin.  Given that it is undisputed that Claritin also provides 24 hour allergy relief, NAD recommended that the advertiser modify the claim to avoid conveying the inaccurate message that only Zyrtec provides 24 hour relief. 

In its advertiser’s statement, McNeil Consumer Healthcare said the company is pleased with NAD’s determination that the claim “Zyrtec starts working 2 hours faster than Claritin” was substantiated but noted that it disagreed “that our print and internet advertising makes certain implied claims that are not intended to be communicated.”  Nevertheless, the advertiser agreed to take NAD’s recommendations into account in future advertising.