You might not believe this disgraceful marketing scheme for a children's medication

Mommy blogger dearest

Remember when you only had to ask your kids if there were going to be boys and girls at a party? Back then, your biggest concern was to make sure parents would be there.

And remember when you said, “No drinking. No drugs.” and you meant pot, not an Rx?

Ahhh… The good old days!

Guess what? Merck just packed up the good old days and shipped them away for good. Meet Merck’s newest sales force niche: Soccer moms.

Coming soon to a neighborhood near you

Marketing children’s drugs with links to food and candy is a big FTC no-no.

That’s why the Public Health Advocacy Institute sent a letter of complaint to the agency. But in this case, the complaint goes far beyond the candy issue.

PHAI’s letter calls out Merck and Dreamworks for stepping WAY over the line. The companies recently teamed up for a joint marketing push. For Merck, the product is children’s chewable Claritin. For Dreamworks, it’s the newest installment of their animated “Madagascar” movies.

Dreamworks has already licensed the use of Madagascar characters with ice cream bars, gummy candy, Airhead candy, sandwich crackers, and McDonald’s Happy Meals.

So when you’re out shopping with impressionable little minds, they’ll see Madagascar characters on all these products. Meanwhile, in the meds aisle, packages of children’s chewable Claritin display Madagascar characters on the label. And inside the packages…Madagascar stickers!

PHAI makes the point that these tie-ins may give children the idea that chewable Claritin is candy. And it happens to be in the very same box they just opened to get to the prize inside…the stickers!

That’s bad enough. But someone at Merck had a brilliant idea to reach thousands of moms directly. They enlisted mommy bloggers.

Dozens of mommy bloggers signed on to join the “Children’s Claritin Mom Crew.” Then crew members were invited to host Madagascar parties, complete with party kits. The kits included DVDs, popcorn boxes, stickers for the kids, AND… samples of children’s Claritin to give to the kids’ moms.

Can you believe it? And Merck thought they would fly under the radar with this one!

After hosting the parties, some crew members posted about the parties on their blogs. PHAI lifted a few photos from the blogs and reproduced them in the FTC letter. And the photos are just jaw-dropping. In one, several kids are all holding Claritin sample boxes, displaying them for the camera.

Yay! Party! Free drugs for everyone!

How scary for all of us that today’s neighborhood pusher is driving a shiny new minivan.

“Merck, Madagascar & Unfair Claritin Marketing?” Ed Silverman, Pharmalot, 6/21/12,

“Merck & Co. Inc. and Dreamworks Animation LLC’s Unfair and Deceptive Marketing of Children’s Claritin Allergy Medication to Children” Public Health Advocacy Institute letter to the FTC, 6/20/12,

Get urgent health alerts, warnings and insights delivered straight to your inbox