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Health advocacy groups question Merck's 'Madagascar' labels on allergy medicine

Health advocacy groups have slammed the drug company Merck for what they are saying is improper marketing of the drug Claritin to children through the use of animated characters from ‘Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted,’ the New York Times reported.

Filed with the Federal Trade Commission, the complaint argued that by displaying the characters on the front of the box, Merck’s marketing campaign is dangerous and deception, with children potentially mistaking the over-the-counter allergy medicine for candy.  The group noted that the familiar characters are also found on other popular children’s products – such as candy and gummy snacks, providing further confusion.

According to the New York Times, the Merck campaign also includes Madagascar stickers in some of its boxes, activity books available for download on their site and a team of blogging moms who host Claritin-themed Madagascar viewing parties for their kids.

In response to the complaint, Merck spokeswoman Kelley Dougherty said they were reviewing the groups’ complaints.  However, she defended the company’s move.

“We advertised in appropriate venues to reach those parents of children who may benefit from the use of Claritin, and not to the children themselves,” Dougherty said in a statement.

Click for more from the New York Times.