Ordered to pull misleading adverts

The US government has ordered a drug giant to quit running a series of radio and newspaper ads that call the allergy spray Flonase a cost-effective alternative to pricey allergy pills.

The ad campaign urged allergy sufferers to ask their doctor about Flonase, a nasal spray, instead of antihistamine pills like Allegra and Zyrtec. Flonase maker GlaxoSmithKline began the ads shortly after insurance companies raised prices for the pills this spring.

But the Food and Drug Administration says the ads falsely imply that Flonase is fully interchangeable with the other drugs — when in fact, it relieves only nasal symptoms and the pills can relieve itchy allergy-afflicted eyes, too.

Flonase “is neither therapeutically equivalent to the oral antihistamines nor interchangeable with or substitutable for them,” the FDA wrote GlaxoSmithKline last week, in a letter posted to the agency’s Web site Tuesday.

The ads had already quit running by the time the FDA complained, said Glaxo spokeswoman Lisa Behrens. She said the company thought it had accurately described the differences between Flonase and allergy pills, but that it would “work in compliance with the FDA” in developing future ads.

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