Big Pharma yanks online search ads, and revenues plunge for six months

Most consumers head to their computers when they need information on illness and treatment. But pharmaceutical companies have slashed spending on sponsored search results this year -- largely because the Food and Drug Administration's Division of Drug Marketing, Advertising, and Communications on March 14 warned top pharmaceutical makers that paid-search links violate the agency's fair balance guidelines requiring ads to outline drugs' side effects along with intended benefits.

Between the issuance of the warning and June, the number of sponsored links from pharmaceutical companies plunged 84 percent, according to online-ad tracker comScore. The cutback may affect the sales of some pharmaceutical companies, says John Mangano, a marketing VP at comScore.