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In a rare move, the BBB National Programs settled a dispute between two big drug companies over a prescription drug ad, suggesting the nonprofit may take a larger role in resolving complaints that might normally be handled by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The dispute began when Eli Lilly challenged some of the information in an ad that Novartis had run for its Kisqali breast cancer treatment. Specifically, Lilly objected to language about the overall survival rate in Kisqali clinical trials that suggested the drug was superior to similar cancer medications. Lilly markets a breast cancer medicine called Verzenio.


The independent nonprofit determined that health care providers may not be confused by the ad because they are a “sophisticated audience and are better equipped to decipher the advertised results of clinical data,” according to a statement announcing a resolution. But consumers, on the other hand, “lack the medical knowledge or experience to understand nuances in clinical trial design or outcomes.”

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