Sunday, December 09, 2012

When It Comes to "Low T" Treatment, Which Does Your Gut Trust: Axiron or Androgel 1.62%?

My blogger friend, Rich Myer over at World of DTC Marketing, thinks that "Lilly got the Axiron site wrong" (see here). "Lilly’s site for Axiron is not user friendly and probably scares more men away than driving them to ask for an Rx," says Rich. According to Rich, there is just too many warning messages on the site: "The homepage... looks more like a warning to stay away from the product."

In case you didn't know, Axiron is approved for the treatment of low testosterone; i.e., Primary hypogonadism and Hypogonadotropic hypogonadism. Or, as marketers like to call it, "Low T," which is much less scary than "Hypogonadotropic hypogonadism." Heck, almost any guy over the age of 50 can have Low T (more about that below)!

Axiron (and also competitor Androgel 1.62%) contains testosterone, a "Schedule III controlled substance," which means it is in a category of drugs considered to have a "potential for abuse or addiction." Both Axiron and Androgel have "black box" warnings as part of their labels:

It used to be that a "black box" meant that the drug would not be advertised directly to consumers (DTC) on TV at least because to mention the dire black box warnings would warn people to stay away from the drug, just like Rich says is happening on the Axiron site.

But these are real drugs for real men (OK, maybe would-be "real men") who want to get it on real fast and who don't give a damn about side effects they may cause in other people that come into contact with them. Such side effects of secondary exposure include "virilization" (i.e., women looking like men, acne in women, unexpected signs of puberty in children). Men using these drugs can experience this unmanly direct side effect: "azoospermia" or lack of sperm.

Some pretty serious stuff. It seems to me, therefore, that Lilly's Axiron site does a proper job of calling attention to these problems.

But why focus only on Axiron? What about Androgel?  Is the Androgel website much better than the Axiron website? Here's a graphic showing the homepages of both sites:

In case you can't tell them apart, Axiron is on the top and Androgel is on the bottom :-). The level of scare is the same for both because both have the same black box warning as part of the FDA-approved label and both have serious side effects.

There is one important difference between these sites: Axiron takes a less aggressive marketing approach than does Androgel. While both sites extol consumers to "talk to their physicians," only Androgel includes one of those phoney-baloney "symptom quizzes" that are designed to make every male over 50 believe he has Low T. I've criticized such quizzes before (see "OMG! Do I Have ED or 'Low T?' Or Both?! Pharma "Symptom Quizzes" Are NOT in the Best Interest of Patient Health!").

Here's how I answered the Androgel quiz:

Abbott Labs, which markets Androgel, says" "If you answered 'yes' to questions 1 or 7 or at least three of the other questions, your symptoms may be caused by Low Testosterone. Hit your back button and print out this completed quiz and bring it to your doctor to discuss Low Testosterone." I guess I might have Low T after all :-(

Like Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert, I too want to protect myself from becoming "gullible," which scientists say is another symptom of old age that perhaps Androgel can fix. If I take Androgel, however, I might become less gullible. But being less gullible means I may no longer believe the marketing hype, in which case I will be in danger of becoming just another "non-adherent" patient that Abbott Labs will soon forget -- new Rx's are key, after all.

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