Friday, March 06, 2009

Economy Down, Insomnia & Depression Up. Result: Fewer Ads Needed to Sell More Drugs?

Good news for the pharmaceutical industry: the more employees you and other companies "pfire" (see "Not Since 1975 Have We Seen Job Losses Like This!"), the more drugs you will be able to sell and the less advertising you will have to do to sell them!

That's the takeaway from an article in yesterday's AdAge, which said:
"According to IMS Health, prescriptions for major sleeping-pill brands rose 7% last year, while antidepressant-brand prescriptions jumped 15%.

"The economy, it appears, is keeping us up at night, according to a new 'Sleep In America' poll out this week from the Washington-based National Sleep Foundation. Some 31% of respondents said they are losing sleep over the dismal economy and their own financial situation.

'The pattern certainly suggests' the economy is a factor, said Amy Wolfson, a professor at College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass., and one of five members of the poll taskforce. 'There are worries about the economy and that can certainly lead to insomnia ... so, yeah, it certainly makes sense that the [prescription] numbers would be up.'"
Meanwhile, said the article,
"prescriptions are up despite a dramatic decrease in marketing -- in the case of sleeping aids, by hundreds of millions of dollars. According to figures from TNS Media Intelligence, spending on sleep-aid Ambien CR fell from $190 million in 2007 to $150 million in 2008 while outlays on Lunesta plunged to $107 million in 2008 from $271 the prior year. Rozerem alone cut spending by $100 million from $140 million in '07."
It's a win-win-win for the drug industry! Well, maybe, and only if you sell sleep aids like Ambien and Lunesta or anti-depressants like Cymbalta.

Can we really interpret this data to claim that direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertising has no effect on consumer demand for drugs?

Not at all!

If Ambien did not advertise, I could walk into my doc's office and ask for Lunesta instead because I remembered the moth and not the rooster. (Forget about Rozerem. That beaver was dead a long, long time ago, well before the recession in the job market began.)

The sleep ad market has calmed down after the shootout for market share began a few years ago. It's only natural that ad spending in this category would decrease from its peak during the shootout.

The AdAge article also cites an increase in anti-depression drug sales even though advertising in that class decreased, according to the article.

Not true! While advertising for the old drug Effexor "fell by more than half from a paltry $21.2 million in 2007 to $9.8 million last year," Lilly spent $179 to advertise Cymbalta to consumers in 2008 -- the same as in 2007. AdAge may call that "flat" but I call it WOW! You can't possibly spend MORE than $179 million in a single year in DTC advertising for a single brand (Lunesta spent $183 million on DTC advertising in 2007 (see "Lunesta's Ad Spending Spree and Other DTC Oddities"). $179 million vs. $182 million -- I call that a dead heat!).

Effexor is an old drug and it's natural that its budget for DTC advertising would decrease over time. Cymbalta, on the other hand, is a new drug and has new indications.

So, I don't believe these numbers can be interpreted to mean that DTC advertising does not lead to increased sales of brand name drugs.

The recession won't help the sales of ALL drugs. Sales of Pfizer's smoking cessation drug Chantix, for example, may be hurt. In stressful times, people are not likely to give up habits such as smoking that decrease their stress. What should Pfizer do? Will Pfizer throw in the DTC towel and figure it's impossible to fight the habit in tough economic times? Nah! It has to believe in DTC's ability to increase demand. Therefore, I predict we'll see more Chantix DTC ads. They'll have to be more creative though. I suggest they take on the recession directly in the ads. I invite the Pfizer ad agency to contact me for more details on how that could be done.


  1. Anonymous9:58 AM

    There are other tactics besides DTC:

    This Makes Me Sick

    When I heard the word 'war-monger', I had to find out its definition, as I had no idea what that word meant. I knew others could be labeled this word, as I had heard it in the past infrequently directed at others whoever said these two words. So I felt a need to know what these words, and how they affected others who heard them.

    Finally, I found the answer: a warmonger is one who promotes war, which is undesirable or discreditable. In this case, one labeled this would have an affinity for what others are reasonably opposed to share the same views:

    Please review the link above, as there appears to be with some in the pharmaceutical corporate world that are offended by being labeled disease mongers. Often, others are offended by facts that exist as a reaction, it seems. Clearly, disease mongering is real, and activities illustrate this behavior.

    Disease mongering is when a large pharmaceutical corporation implements various unethical if not illegal activities in order to sell more of their products by either creating or expanding a particular illness. They do this by creating the perception that others are ill when, in fact, they are not.

    Drug companies do this by seeking more of those who should be patients in need of treatment with the drug maker's promoted medications, regardless if they are in need of such treatment or not, clinically.

    How this is done by these companies will be described soon.

    The drug makers clearly place the needs for their drugs to be for medical conditions whose treatment regimens are to be viewed by others as incomplete or unmet. The companies want to let the public know of the progressive increase for the disease states and how their products treat this illness better than what is available now or has been used in the past. How ironic it seems that drug companies, who make drugs to delay the progression of, or cure diseases with these drugs, wish for others to become as sick as possible to profit from their suffering that they create with disease mongering and sell more pills.

    This disease-mongering in fact does occur often to widen the diagnostic boundaries of an illness, disorder, or syndrome by creating awareness of such medical conditions to the public- utilizing in several ways the delivery of fabricated if not baseless information during this process. Usually, the pharmaceutical either creates or expands a disease state by deception directly to consumers, often. Then the consumer, who now believes that they are ill, go see their health care provider. The health care provider, due largely to the unfamiliarity of the patient’s symptoms expressed by the patient, if not the drug the patient is requesting, usually writes a prescription for the drug requested by the patient.

    First, let's take a look at this label of disease mongering. It is inappropriate in that, unlike diseases and illnesses, mongering occurs with medical disorders and syndromes as well. It is accurate and factual, however, that disease mongering does occur, but is not limited to diseases that exist, possibly. The disease monger strives to inflate the volume of a disease for which they have drugs to treat for their own financial gain.

    There was a book written by Ray Moynihan and Allan Cassels called, "Selling Sickness" in 2005. The book thoroughly described how big pharmaceutical corporations are turning all of us into patients.

    Disease mongering progressively continues to create patients with illnesses, disorders, or syndromes that in fact may not exist, yet again, the greater number of people convinced they are afflicted with a certain medical disorder, the better it is for the drug company. What the drug company implements to make sure this happens includes the following:

    1. Paying medical journals to publish fabricated clinical trials involving their promoted medications after paying those involved with such a clinical trial to create such fabricated data. That is disease mongering to the health care provider.

    2. Subjective screenings, such as those for various mood disorders. These screenings, as well as the affective disorders, which were rare until about 1995, involve leading questions often- created by the drug company. It was around this time that the United States was becoming more of a psychotropic nation.

    These screenings that involve the leading questions responded by select groups of people. They are asked these questions by certain disease state support groups who have been converted into front groups after being funded by those big pharma companies who produce drugs for particular mood disorders.

    3. Disease creations I: Social Anxiety Disorder, or social phobia: This condition is in the DSM IV which was published in 1994, and some were forced to delete the statement regarding this disorder that said, "Social Anxiety Disorder is not well-established, and requires further study."

    Aside from what may be simply amplified introversion, social phobias are likely due to societal dysfunctions and certainly should not be labeled as a pathological condition requiring pharmacological treatment.

    4. Disease creations II: Premenstrual dysphoric disorder. I call this a mid-life crisis, yet it was entered by instruction by the APA (American Psychiatric Association) into the DSM (the psychiatrist's bible) in 1993. Anxiety about the inevitable does not require pharmacological treatment.

    5. Direct to Consumer Advertising:. Most memorable were those commercials for erectile dysfunction. Their absurdness in creating these commercials appears to have multiple psychotic components:

    A healthy man who could probably run a marathon is having a decent time with his wife at some upper- middle class location. He is smiling all the time. Because now, his marriage is secure due to his ability to copulate- which was apparently absent before this wonder drug entered his system. Of course, it is not possible to have a happy marriage without intercourse, right?

    Then there are other conditions which are entirely natural in the human lifespan, yet have been determined to be diseases by those who can profit off of these lifespan events. Examples include osteoporosis and menopause, as well as erectile dysfunction. It’s insane the FDA approves pharmaceuticals for these natural events that occur normally in a human being.

    Finally, there are the required medical guidelines for various disease states, such as dyslipidemia. Drug companies that make medications to treat this disease are more than happy to support the financial needs involved in creating these guidelines. Dyslipidemia, for example:

    Publications such as the Lipid Letter, and Lipid Management, both offered more aggressive management of the lipid profiles of the patients of the readers. And both publications were funded completely by those big pharma companies that promote statins. Same with cholesterol screenings that occur often.

    A myth is something unproven. A false belief, or invented story.

    Disease Mongering is not a myth. Large pharmaceutical corporations promote illness and disease- not desired by anyone and discredited by many, and these companies do this for profit and profit only.

    I worked for three of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world for over a decade, and the disease mongering protocols were similar if not identical with all of these companies,

    Dan Abshear


  2. Anonymous11:08 AM

    2 Pet peeves here.

    First of all, it should be "Fewer Ads Needed". I guess no one remembers how to speak English correctly anymore.

    Second, could this post above me be more useless? I doubt anyone got past the first paragraph once they saw how long it was. yeesh.

  3. Is that you, Mrs. Goldberg, my high school English teacher? Did you see the post "The The Impotence of Proofreading" at

  4. Whoops! I left out the "?" Sorry!

  5. I think that Pfizer, in regards to Chantix, has already seen a significant drop after the abundance of press regarding the dangerous side effects of the drug. However, I completely agree with you that in times like these, people have difficulty in giving up their vices.

    In regards to DTC advertising I don't think that the recession will slow down the pharmaceutical industry too much, I'm pretty sure this is a window for them to further attack the markets.

    One thing we have noticed with Pfizer is that there has been a drop in sales of erectile dysfunction drugs which prompts the question is the recession affecting our sex lives?

    There is a good article about this you should check out -

    Is sex not considered a stress necessity for some people in the same way that cigarettes are?

    It will be interesting to view this quarters sales compared to advertising spend.

  6. if it is true I need to get in this business - I am kidding. However if it is true it is a sad fact


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