Pfizer's dead rat ad campaign against fake Viagra to be investigated

LONDON - A discomforting cinema ad for pharmaceutical company Pfizer, featuring a man pulling a dead rat out of his mouth is to be investigated by the advertising watchdog after more than 50 complaints.

The ad, created by Windsor based healthcare agency Langland, is designed to spread the message that buying drugs online without a prescription can be fatal as many contain dangerous ingredients including rat poison.


The trade in fake drugs like Viagra has become big business for organised crime and can be as much as 2,000 times more profitable than dealing in hard drugs.

Last month, a report in Singapore found that four men died and three were left in comas after taking counterfeit impotence drugs.

Jim Thomson, founder of the European Alliance for Access to Safe Medicines, said that the prospect of high profits was now attracting criminals into the fake Viagra market.

Thomson said: "You can buy a kilo of the active ingredient of Viagra on a website for about £33 and you can make a lot of tablets from a kilo."

Pfizer's cinema ad shows a man coughing up a dead rat after taking a pill bought from an illegal website. The ad ends with the strapline "Get real, get a prescription."

The advertising watchdog has received 54 complaints from people who found the ad "offensive and distressing".

Some complainants said that the ad is likely to cause distress to those who take legally prescribed medication that also contains dangerous ingredients.

The campaign, which launched on January 16, was shown online and in 600 cinemas across England. It was backed by a number of organisations including the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, The Patients Association, Men's Health Forum and H.E.A.R.T UK.