...don't even ignore 'em.
-- Samuel Goldwyn

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

SLEEPING PILLS, A (AMBIEN) TO ZZZZZ (ROZEREM)


What's Rozerem? It's the latest prescription sleep medicine, from Takeda, a Japanese pharma. They've started a $100-million ad campaign for it. Approved by the FDA a year ago, Rozerem is the first sleep med not to be classified as a controlled substance, that is, the manufacturer can say it doesn't make you dependent on it.

Interestingly, Takeda waited a year before starting direct-to-consumer advertising, using the time to "educate" doctors about the drug (free translation, "sell"). By the way, this is what the AMA is now demanding of the pharmaceutical industry and the FDA--a year's moratorium on advertising between approval of a new drug and its direct-to-consumer advertising. But, taking a year to blitz the docs with a thousand-person army of drug reps doesn't necessarily signal reform in pharma marketing tactics: Rozerem's "creative" TV ads feature "dream" characters of Abe Lincoln and a beaver, and target garden variety insomniacs, not sufferers of known diseases. As usual, a voice mutters the warnings at the end of the spot. Look at their Web site -- the centerpiece is a giant freeze-frame from the TV spot, and the side-effects warnings are a long scroll-down below the apparent page unit, unless you've got your browser set on "full screen." Weasel Web Design.

For me, the most jarring part of the Trib article is this:

"The companies have tried to pretend they [Ambien and Lunesta] are not addictive," said Dr. Sidney Wolfe, director of health research for consumer group Public Citizen. "The drug ads have created a much-expanded market so even people who do not have sleep disorders and could benefit from non-pharmacological [treatments] use them. And it's easier for doctors to just write out a prescription rather than take the time to figure out the causes for [their patients'] sleeplessness."
But, isn't this the whole purpose of direct-to-consumer prescription drug advertising -- to increase sales by pitching prescription drugs to people who may not be that sick, and might respond to cheap changes in diet and other habits?

Hey, doc, is it true? Would you rather write a prescription than make a diagnosis? Look at the numbers. TV advertising has taken prescription pharmaceutical sales to the stratosphere. Only doctors can authorize the sale of prescription drugs. What are we to believe about this system? Can some medical person help me out here?

As for you, Mr. and Ms. Consumer, are you so convinced that drugs are the instant fix for all your problems you're willing to believe that if it's advertised on TV and costs an arm and a leg, it's got to be good? As Joseph Heller wrote in Catch 22, "Every culprit a victim, every victim a culprit."

Update 08/11/06 - Somebody landed on this site after searching on "Why beaver on sleep medicine commercial?" or words to that effect. Isn't that the whole point? DN

3 comments:

adverlicious said...

fyi, here's the online ad that goes with this priceless Rozerem gem --

http://adverlicio.us/rozerem_they_miss_you_728x90

Enjoy!

Alex said...

: )

DAVE NEWTON said...

Thanks for the comments, Alex, and "adverlicious." I'll have to drill down into your site. Thanks for the link. And smiles are always welcome, Alex.

The Rozerem ads are certifiably weird. And the banner adverlicious points us to is even weirder -- doesn't even reinforce that these are your DREAMS that miss you. Could this campaign be for sleep-challenged geeks, who tend to adore quirky stuff. Well, this was done by a couple of Chicago ad agencies, and approved by Japanese pharma marketing guys -- some ideas don't travel well. And the pharmas say this stuff is all about "education."