Madagascar 3 Children's Claritin Campaign ‘Dangerous’
Merck, maker of the allergy drug Claritin, is using the popular children's movie Madagascar 3 to help sell its Children's Claritin, but several advocacy groups are calling foul. Eleven advocacy groups have called for a federal investigation of the tie-in, saying it could cause children to overdose on the drug.
"Marketing medicine directly to children at all, much less through entertainment tie-ins, is well beyond the pale and is not only inherently unfair, it is downright dangerous," Mark Gottlieb, executive director for Public Health Advocacy Institute at Northeastern University School of Law in Boston, said in a statement.
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Madagascar 3 is also being used to advertise candy and fruit snacks, and PHAI contends that children can mistake the Children's Claritin for candy.
"The use of the same licensed characters on fruit-flavored [over-the-counter] allergy medication, children's candy and children's gummy snacks creates a very real danger of product confusion and may induce children to over-consume Grape-Flavored Children's Claritin allergy medication," the group said.
The group also says that Merck told its "Children's Claritin Mom Crew" bloggers to host Madagascar-themed parties. One mommy-blogger wrote that Merck distributed "full size Claritin product featuring 'Madagascar 3,' product samples and coupons to share with my mommy friends, stickers for the kids, popcorn boxes and Madagascar 1 and 2 DVDs."
The organizations call for the FTC to intervene on the advertisements, which is has done since 1977 when it ruled that using Spiderman to advertise vitamins was "unfair and deceptive."
"Merck's 'Madagascar 3' campaign is its "first entertainment product tie-in" for Children's Claritin," the letter concludes. "Before this trade practice becomes widespread, the FTC must send a clear message that child-directed marketing of OTC drugs is unfair and deceptive and violates longstanding FTC precedent."
Merck, however, says that it advertises to parents, not children.
"We advertise in appropriate venues to reach those parents of children who may benefit from the use of children's Claritin," Merck spokeswoman Kelley Dougherty told Bloomberg News. "The advertising is directed to the parents of children viewing the movies, not to the children themselves."
FTC spokeswoman Cecelia Prewett told Bloomberg that the agency received the complaints but declined to comment on the matter.
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