Merck's deceptive new entertainment product campaign pushes drugs like candy on young children

Friday, June 22, 2012 by: Ethan A. Huff, staff writer
Tags: Merck, children, candy

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(NaturalNews) The same multinational drug company responsible for thrusting the Gardasil vaccine on masses of young boys and girls is now targeting children with a deceptive new advertising campaign that likens allergy medication to candy.

Adweek and others are reporting that Merck & Co. has leeched itself onto a promotional campaign for the upcoming Dreamworks film Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted, a move that has prompted the Public Health Advocacy Institute (PHAI) and several other advocacy groups to file a complaint with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

Packaging for Claritin allergy medication apparently now features characters from the Madagascar 3 movie emblazoned right on the label. The labels also entice children with offers of free stickers, downloadable Madagascar 3 interactive games, popcorn containers, and other knick-knacks.

Merck has also created interactive Facebook ads featuring bright displays of cartoon animals alongside boxes of Claritin, which also clearly target children. Merck is also pitching free movie passes for Madagascar 3 as an incentive to purchase Claritin.

Such ads are interspersed with unrelated ads for fruit-flavored candies and gummy snacks, according to reports, a marketing tactic that deliberately confuses children into thinking Claritin is a sweet treat rather than a drug.

"Marketing materials designed to appeal to children, like those used in Merck's Madagascar 3 campaign for its Children's Claritin products, violate the (FTC) commission's longstanding precedent in this area and are inherently unfair and deceptive," says the PHAI complaint.

Merck instructs mothers to hold Madagascar 3 viewing parties, hand out drug samples to children

But the situation gets worse. According to Adweek, Merck is also rallying mothers to hold Madagascar 3 viewing parties as part of an interactive social marketing campaign. Attendees will receive free samples of Claritin and other Merck products from the "Children's Claritin Mom Crew."

"Photographs posted on Mom Crew member blogs show tables with children's food and product samples of Children's Claritin Grape-Flavored Chewable tablets, party favors that mixed toys, stickers and other favors with Children's Claritin samples, and children holding Claritin product samples," adds the complaint.

Mark Gottlieb, executive director of (PHAI) at Northeastern University's School of Law in Boston, added in a comment that marketing medicine to children in this way, through "entertainment tie-ins," is "well beyond the pale and is not only inherently unfair, it is downright dangerous."

Merck was the first to initiate direct-to-consumer drug marketing for adults, and now for children

When Merck decided to launch the first direct-to-consumer print ad for a drug back in 1981, many Americans were outraged that a drug company had the audacity to market drugs directly to consumers. Interestingly, Merck has now done the same thing today by being the first to directly market drugs to children.

This is hardly surprising, since Merck is also responsible for aggressively peddling the useless and highly dangerous Gardasil vaccine, which to date has injured thousands of children and killed more than 100 others ( A conscience-less company like Merck, in other words, obviously has no scruples about getting children hooked on allergy medicines as if they were fruit snacks.

Gottlieb's group, as well as several other groups including Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood and The Public Good Law Center have all signed onto the PHAI letter, which urges the FTC to nip this atrocious threat to children in the bud, and put Merck in its place by restricting such advertising.

"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," says the complaint.

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