Wednesday, January 23, 2008

New Vytorin TV Ads Are in the Works - IMHO

According to an AP report, Merck & Co. and Schering-Plough Corp. have suspended TV ads for Vytorin a week after a study revealed the cholesterol drug is "no more effective than a high dose of one of its components available generically at a third of the cost."

They made this decision, said Skip Irvine, a spokesman for Merck/Schering-Plough, "in light of mischaracterization and misinterpretation of the enhanced (sic) trial results."

There's just a few observations about this decision that I'd like to make before I discuss why I believe that NEW Vytorin TV ads are in the works.

Observation # 1: It's ENHANCE, Skip, not ENHANCED! Is that a misquote Skip, or are you trying to put some subliminal spin on it? If you can't even get the name of the trial right, why should I swallow your "mischaracterization and misinterpretation" remarks, which is the real spin?

Observation #2: It's about time the ads were pulled! Let me offer a poem as introduction [apologies to e. e. cummings]:

I told
Schering:it couldn't
believe it [...]
(it didn't believe it, no
sir) it took
an over-hyped bit of
the old ENHANCE
trial:which hit its stock price: to tell

Nearly a year ago, I suggested that the "Vytorin Ads Are Getting Old -- and Disturbing!" I didn't suggest that Schering-Merck pull the ads altogether, but I had enough of the silly food-people comparisons, especially when it was becoming a bit racial (yes, I'm introducing race into the mix) as illustrated in this ad:

New Vytorin Ads on the Way
I noted a week ago -- as soon as the ENHANCE news broke -- that the Vytorin ads were missing from TV and suggested there would be a revamping of the ads should they return:
P.P.S. Since this blog is really all about pharmaceutical marketing, I should say something about how the ENHANCE trial failure may affect the advertising of Zetia and Vytorin.

Obviously, these brands are probably maintaining a low profile these days. I don't remember seeing the usual ads on TV last night. Perhaps the ads are being revamped in light of the ENHANCE trial news and will soon re-appear addressing the issues raised by the study's failure. But why weren't these damage-control ads rolled out IMMEDIATELY? Maybe it's best to say nothing to the public -- No way! Merck and Schering-Plough should have PSAs explaining their take on the situation and NOT just depend on issuing a press release!

See "Should I Stop Taking Zetia?"
Personally, I don't think there's a snowball's chance in hell that the people-food comparison ads will come back. They are as dead as dodos. SP-Merck will have to come up with new ads like Pfizer did for Celebrex after Vioxx (a similar NSAID) was pulled from the market (see "Celebrex Ad: Let's Dive Deeper").

The new Vytorin ads cannot look like the old ones because that branding is now too closely associated with the ENHANCE debacle. The new ads will have to "dive deeper" -- and maybe run for more than 1 minute -- to explain the nuances of the ENHANCE results and make a strong case why Vytorin is better than just simvastatin alone.

But don't expect to see these new ads soon. As someone once said: "Oh Lucy! - You Gotta Lotta 'Splainin' To Do" and that may take some time.

UPDATE: My cardiologist still has NOT returned my call to answer my question about Zetia!!!! (See "Should I Stop Taking Zetia?")

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