Prescription Drug Ads....

Over the last few years drug companies have started to advertise their products. My question is why so often, especially when a drug is first advertised, do they make no mention of what the drug is actually for?

Why would I ask my doctor about Panacia X when I have no idea what it can do for me except some vague notions that I can “get back into life” or something.

Working in pharmaceutical market research, and I know I read that there were changes the FDA made in terms of advertising recently that allowed them to advertise drugs on TV that you previously couldn’t.

But I do have this speculation: drugs are approved by the FDA for SPECIFIC indications. That being said, however, the drug might actually be useful for a whole host of applications that are still in testing and you want to get those approved too. For example, I worked at a pharmaceutical company that made a drug for Kaposi’s sarcoma (AIDS related skin lesions). It is there belief, however, that the drug will also be useful for eczema, psorasis and acne, all of which are huge markets that are totally unrelated to AIDS, and don’t have the same social stigma that AIDS has. So, imagine you are my old company.

If you advertise this drug as an AIDS drug, two things happen: 1) People who have heard of it and are interested may shy away from it when others around them say things like “Oh, that’s the pill for fags” and trust me, I’ve heard that! 2) If the drug does get approved for acne, how many teenagers will use it if they fear there friends will assume they have AIDS because they are using it for this new indication?

SOLUTION: Use generic quality-of-life advertising to show how people’s lives are improved with your drug which builds general brand awareness. People who are then exposed to the drug is they require it for treatment then feel better they are taking a ‘known’ drug that will improve their life. Meanwhile, people who are taking it for AIDS don’t have to worry about people on the bus running away from them because they won’t know what the drug is actually used to treat.

Because it’s against the law. Taken fromhere.

Sorry about that bad link. It can be found here. It’s the FDA’s prescription drug advertising rules and regulation.

But the advertisements seem pointless.

As an example, yesterday I run across a full page advertisement for Prilosec. It’s got a lady in a flowing purple dress superimposed over the face of a clock. Dozens of purple pills are scattered about the page.

The only text on the ad reads, “It’s Prilosec Time”

Given all the constraints as outline in the above posts, why pay for this type of advertising at all?

Not knowing what condition Prilosec is supposed to treat, I can neither go to the doctor in order to specifically obtain Prilosec, nor can I request Prilosec in lieu of another prescribed medication that a doctor give me.

Bottom line: Some pharmacutical company spent several thousands of dollars on an ad for Prilosec. I come away knowing that Prilosec is a small purple capsule. That’s it. Sure, I have product awareness, but without knowing what it’s for it’s useless.


But you still know the name “Prilosec” and if you’re doctor suggests it to you, you might go, “Oh, the purple things. I’ll try those!”

The alternative would be tell you all the horrible side effects you can get from Prilosec. The company doesn’t think you want to know about that.

However, since most doctors can only prescribe drugs that are in HMO-approved formularies, the quantity of advertising now seems disprortionate to the need for it.

It’s not like most of us can go to our doctor and ask for anything specific anyway.

Since when was advertising suppose to make sense. It doesn’t. But what it did do is make you remember the name. Right? That’s about all they want.

Damn you Bob!

This is really all there is to it.

It’s the big pharmaceuticals trying to keep a step ahead of their competition: either other, similar drugs, or generics.

I work in a GI clinic where we prescribe Prilosec. We also prescribe Prevacid These drugs are (according to one of our doctors) virtually interchangeable. But guess which one the patients come in asking for? Bingo: Prilosec.

We also get patients who see an ad, hear the symptoms, say to themselves, “So that’s what’s wrong with me!” and come in telling US which prescription they need. All very annoying to the doctors, but I’m sure it improves the drugs’ sales overall.

Similarly, when the doctor offers them the choice of a name brand or a generic, some of them no doubt conjure up some advertising imagery and decide to “go with what they know.”

Before all this advertising, the patient would simply go to the doctor and describe their symptoms, and the doctor would decide what to prescribe, if anything, for treatment. Now we have “educated” patients who seem to imagine that all they need the doctor for is his signature on a prescription slip: they’ve learned all they need to know from a TV ad.

There are still some problems here…

I’m not going to go into a clinic requesting Prilosec. I don’t even know what it’s for!

So, this “The advertising worked because you know the name ‘Prilosec’” doesn’t mean much to me. I know that Prilosec exists and that’s it.

Let’s make up an imaginary drug–call it Panazule. I embark on an print advertising campaign that features a smiling man pointing at the reader. A caption states, “Panazule, it’s here for you!” How the hell is that going to get Panazule flying off the doctors’ shelves?

The ONLY way I can fathom Prilosec sales increasing with this ad campaign is if a doctor were to say to me, “Well, dietrologia, we have two medications that can treat your ______. Genericon, or Prilosec.”

(cut to me)

“Oh, oh, oh, oh! Prilosec. Gimme Prilosec!”

(camera pans to knee jerking uncontrollably)

If I can get a cut of the action, I will say that Prilosec is used to treat heartburn, or, as they like to call it GERD, gastroesophogeal reflux disease.

It is also in conjunction with other medications to treat stomach ulcers.

One of its common side effects is stomach pain. Seems to defeat the purpose.

BobT wrote:It is also in conjunction with other medications to treat stomach ulcers.

One of its common side effects is stomach pain. Seems to defeat the purpose.

“May also cause uncontrolled bleeding from the eyes, spontaneous rectal discarge, and sudden stoppage of the heart. Same as sugar pill.”

I don’t know why I’m having such a vehement reaction to this topic. It just seems so… useless… pointless… and such a waste of money. It seems to reinforce all the bad images associated with giant pharmaceutical corporations.

Maybe there’s a pill out there to help me with this. Prilosec perhaps?

I think what your missing is you don’t need the drug in the first place. The ad is obviously not designed for you, therefore, you don’t see the point to it.

But if I’m sitting here about to completely lose it and run around the block with an Glock and a chip on my shoulder, the ad of the woman in the field of flowers smiling away at nothing will get my attention. Especially when they add: ‘Prilosec! You wanna be here, don’t you?’.

All kinds of ads are directed towards a specific set of people. They understand it, you don’t. Pretty effective advertising if you ask me.