A judge Tuesday rebuffed the makers of Advil, who had sought to quash advertising claims for Aleve, a fast-rising competitor.
The judge complained that the mountains of conflicting claims he had to read about the two painkillers had left him with a “monumental headache.”
U.S. District Judge Nicholas H. Politan rejected the contention that Aleve’s distributor, Procter & Gamble Co., deliberately intended to mislead consumers. He also said there was no reliable proof that the ads conveyed a message that Aleve worked better than Advil or was effective for longer periods. Procter & Gamble claimed victory.
American Home, based in Madison, N.J., filed the suit Aug. 8, asking that the Aleve ads be halted.
The ads proclaimed Aleve to be “All day strong--all day long” because its recommended dosage is one or two pills every eight to 12 hours instead of every four to six hours. The ads stopped short of claiming one dose of Aleve would be effective for eight to 12 hours.
American Home Products surveys found that consumers got the message that Aleve lasts longer, but the judge said the studies were flawed. On the other hand, he said, three studies of Aleve’s active ingredient done for its maker, Syntex Corp.--though not definitive--suggest that Aleve relieves pain for a longer period of time than Advil, he said.
Because of the mass of evidence and exhibits, however, Politan wrote, “it is thus not surprising that the court presently finds itself in possession of a monumental headache, the alleviation of which is beyond the durational powers of any of the analgesics discussed herein.”
The judge ordered one minor adjustment, to which the companies had already agreed. It makes small changes to ads aimed at medical professionals regarding the testing of Aleve and the people involved in those tests.
Advil’s active ingredient is ibuprofen. It is the No. 2 brand in the nation, with 13.6% of the $2.5-billion market for over-the-counter pain pills.
Johnson & Johnson’s Tylenol, essentially acetaminophen, is No. 1 with 29.4% of the market, according to November figures from the research firm Information Resources Inc.
Aleve, the brand name for naproxen sodium, captured third place within three months of its introduction, with about 6.8%. By November its market share had fallen to 4.9%, but it was still in third place.
American Home Products is not the only competitor that has bristled at claims for Aleve.
Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble agreed in November to modify some Aleve ads after the maker of Bayer Aspirin complained to the Council of Better Business Bureaus.