Showing posts with label Erectile Dysfunction. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Erectile Dysfunction. Show all posts

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Oh Yeah, Baby! Show Me More!... Viagra TV Ads Like This. But Don't Let My FDA See It!

Wowie zowie! Is that a roll of dimes quarters in my pocket or am I just excited to see this new Viagra DTC TV ad (also see embedded Youtube version at the end of this post) that features what could be a MILF?

I pity the man who can't get an erection carousing with this woman in a beach resort or even watching her on TV lounging around the beach resort telling you that "plenty of guys" have "this issue"; i.e., getting and maintaining an erection.

Oh, Yeah?! Well. I'm NOT having an issue right now!

Of course, this Viagra ad reneges on Pfizer's pledge back in 2005 to focus more on disease awareness in its DTC advertising. But (1) Pfizer withdrew that pledge (see here), and (2) this ad, IMHO, has sufficient redeeming prurient value to make us forget all about stuff like checking my blood pressure, etc. as a potential cause of ED.

But there's a fly in the ointment (not that I use the stuff). I think FDA will find problems with this ad.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

DTC Down the Drain

"Direct-to-consumer advertising, as we've known it, at least, is not the be-all and end-all of marketing prescription drugs to patients anymore," says Matthew Arnold in a new MM&M report with the provocative title "DTC Drain" (find it here). Yes, and the spending trend shows it -- DTC ad spending decreased 12% in 2012 compared to 2011 (see "DTC Not As Dead As We Thought... But Digital Ad Spending Down One-Third!")

I took MM&M's title a step further and increased the alliterative appeal by adding "Down" as in the following photo, which appeared in the MM&M report (sans the words):

The tubs image, of course, recalls DTC ads for Cialis. According to Nielsen data, which you can find in the MM&M report, Cialis ranked #2 in DTC ad spending in 2012, just behind Cymbalta. That's an increase in 13% over the 2011 spend (those tubs aren't drained just yet!). The Viagra ad spend, on the other hand, decreased 15%. Oh well, one man's Viagra is another man's Cialis!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

ED Drug Advertisers "Cockblocked" PhRMA's DTC Guiding Principle #13

The pharmaceutical industry's efforts to self-regulate its direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertising are "an industry-sponsored ruse," intended to deflect criticism and collectively block new Federal regulation, a study released today in the Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law found. The paper, "The Politics and Strategy of Industry Self-Regulation: The Pharmaceutical Industry's Principles for Ethical Direct-to-Consumer Advertising as a Deceptive Blocking Strategy," which you can find here, was written by Denis Arnold, Associate Professor of Management and Surtman Distinguished Scholar in Business Ethics in the Belk College of Business at UNC Charlotte, with Jim Oakley, Associate Professor of Marketing at Montana State University.

Arnold and Oakley studied the marketing campaigns for erectile dysfunction (ED) drugs -- Viagra (Pfizer), Cialis (Eli Lilly), and Levitra (Bayer Healthcare, GlaxoSmithKline and Merck) -- over a four-year period, 2006 to 2010. They found that a substantial percentage of TV ads for these products violated Principle 13 (audience composition) in the original 2006 “PhRMA Guiding Principles”, which requires that audience composition be 80 percent adult (eighteen years and older) for advertisements with adult-oriented content. This principle was in effect from January 1, 2006, to March 1, 2009. Here's a chart from the study:

According to PhRMA's revised guidelines, it is now expected that 90 percent of the audience for these advertisements will be eighteen years or older. "At no point have the three brands in this category successfully complied with this guideline at a rate better than 50 percent for the total category," contend the authors of the study.

According to some experts, self-regulatory guidelines such as PhRMA's DTC guidelines represent a "bridging" strategy in which firms take the proactive internal measures necessary to meet external expectations. "This might be accomplished by meeting and exceeding regulatory requirements or by voluntarily implementing self-regulatory standards within an industry," note the authors of the study.

Self-Regulation as a Collective Blocking Strategy
The authors of this study, however, characterize what ED drug advertisers are doing as a "blocking" strategy, which "occurs when a firm publicly characterizes itself as engaged in bridging activity but is in reality engaged in activity that blocks unwanted external constraints on its activities. When a firm engages in a blocking strategy, it represents itself as responding proactively to social expectations about firm behavior in a manner consistent with a bridging strategy but does not implement the internal measures necessary to ensure that the bridging strategy is implemented."

The authors go even further, accusing the industry of engaging in a deceptive collective "blocking" strategy, which has the following components:

  1. it is facilitated by an industry trade group via an industry-wide code of conduct, 
  2. it is a response to the perceived threat of additional regulatory oversight, 
  3. the code of conduct is routinely violated by companies that have agreed to follow the code, and 
  4. the code of conduct is not enforced by the trade group.
I can vouch for #3 and #4, having posted several instances where drug advertisers have violated PhRMA's DTC Guiding Principles with nary a word from PhRMA's "Office of Accountability," which was created to receive and process public comments about company compliance with the principles.

Speaking of PhRMA's "Office of Accountability," the authors attempted to file comments with that office for each erectile dysfunction pharmaceutical brand:
"We submitted comments by mail on March 22, 2010. After six weeks and no response, we resubmitted our comments by mail and obtained confirmation of delivery on May 6, 2010, by the US Postal Service. We also made repeated efforts to submit comment forms by facsimile beginning in May 2010, but the incoming calls at the number provided by PhRMA were not picked up by a facsimile machine on different days and at different times. We continued this effort until July 23, 2010, when on the eleventh attempt a facsimile was confirmed as delivered. In the meantime, comments were again mailed to the PhRMA Office of Accountability on July 13, 2010. No response to any of these comments was ever received from PhRMA or from Bayer Healthcare, Eli Lilly, GlaxoSmithKline, Schering Plough, Merck, or Pfizer as of December 27, 2012."
They should have known this would happen after my own attempts to submit comments to PhRMA resulted in a strange delayed response from the famed "PhRMA Intern" (see "PhRMA's Response - PRwise, it Stinks!"). Recall the envelope that the response came in:

PhRMA's "Office of Accountability" is the ultimate "cockblocker" for complaints about violations of it DTC Guiding Principles.

The Adventures of PhRMA Intern!

Stay tuned for the further adventures of PhRMA Intern!

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Up Yours, Rush Limbaugh, Say Women Lawmakers!

In Virginia, state Senator Janet Howell reacted to a bill that requires women to get an ultrasound before an abortion with an amendment requiring doctors to perform a rectal exam and stress test before prescribing impotence pills.

I'm pretty sure Rush Limbaugh would not like to have a rectal exam every time he went in to refill his Viagra prescription!

Peter O’Toole, a Pfizer spokesman, said by phone that the company doesn’t comment on specific legislation.

HT: Pharmalot ("Want Viagra? See A Sex Therapist And Notary First!")

Also see "Women Lawmakers Turn the Tables on Men Who Take Viagra".

Friday, December 03, 2010

Viagra Website Goes Dark!

No, hasn't been the target of "distributed denial of service" attacks by "unknown hackers," nor has Amazon pulled the site from its servers following political pressure from Senator Joe Lieberman, who chairs the Senate Homeland Security Committee. And Lieberman did NOT call for organizations hosting to terminate their relationship with the website.

All that's not likely to happen because here in America we value the freedom of information and believe the first amendment applies to corporate speech as well as to individual speech.

But has moved to the dark side and has become the first Rx drug site to use a black background, as far as I am aware (see screen shot below).

Several weeks ago, I noticed a similarly dark Viagra print ad in a magazine (see "Be a Macho Man! Ask Your Doctor for Viagra!"). The web site continues the "macho" theme as well.

Man, I'd love to be like one of these guys! Own a private plane and even know enough to work on its engine as well as not panic when my OLD car's water temperature gauge goes into the red zone while I'm driving  through the desert! Who knew such guys had ED (erectile dysfunction)?

ED guys don't have to ask mechanics for help on the road, but they DO have to ask their physicians for help getting an erection (ie, a prescription for Viagra). That's the best advice can offer!

P.S. Delving a bit deeper into the Web site, I find that "ED is More Common Than You Think" in the "Common Questions" section. There, Pfizer claims that "MORE THAN HALF OF MEN OVER 40 HAVE SOME DEGREE OF ED." I've often taken issue with this statement, so I researched the source that Pfizer cites for this: The Massachusetts Aging Men Study, which found that 52% of respondents claimed they had some degree of ED. Another analysis of this study concluded "Men who worked in blue-collar occupations were one and a half times more likely to develop ED compared to men in white-collar occupations" (see here). So why aren't blue-collar men depicted in Viagra ads instead of professional-looking guys and guys who own their own private planes? I doubt many blue-collar types are able to afford their own private airplane these days. What kind of world does Pfizer think we live in????

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Be a Macho Man! Ask Your Doctor for Viagra!

I came across this Viagra print ad in this week's Time magazine.

"You may be a man of FEW WORDS," proclaims the large headline of the ad, "but you know when to make them count. When there's something worth saying, you say it."

I will try and be a man of few words as I critique this ad; you tell me if they are worth anything.

This ad is a bit unusual in several respects, the most important of which is that it is "dark." The ad's dominant color scheme is black and dark green, which is more reminiscent of ads I've seen for men's deodorants in Playboy magazine, which I read for the interviews.

The ad also prominently features an African-American male. I suppose not enough men of color are speaking up and asking their doctors about Viagra.

It's a fact that a higher proportion of blacks in the U.S. -- but NOT worldwide --  have high blood pressure than whiles (41% of blacks have high blood pressure, as compared to 27% of whites; see here). One complication of high blood pressure is erectile dysfunction. The connection between high blood pressure and ED used to be the focus of ED awareness ads way back when certain lawmakers were critical of daytime DTC ads in the category (see "Deconstructing Frist on DTC"). I guess that wasn't enough to convince blacks to be a "man" and ask their doctors about Viagra. A more dramatic appeal to "machismo" such as in this ad seems necessary.

To keep this to as few words as possible, I will not talk about how often I have noticed that the men in many of these erectile dysfunction ads seem a lot younger than warranted by the incidence of ED in men under 40 (in the UK, Lilly targets men OVER 40 in its "40over40 ED Awareness Campaign"). Pfizer covers its ass on  this point by using these few words: "so, if you're like millions of men who have some degree of erectile dysfunction..." [my emphasis].

Here's something worth saying: what man among us has NOT had some degree of ED at one time or another (see, for example, "You Must Score Better than 84% on Viagra's Sexual Health Quiz to NOT Have Signs of ED")? We can ALL relate to that and also to the closing machismo statement, just before the VIAGRA logo:  "THIS IS THE AGE OF TAKING ACTION."

At the beginning of the "fair balance" portion of the ad -- the part that contains MANY words -- Pfizer qualifies the "age of action" call to action by saying that "with every age comes responsibility." This is another machismo axiom. "Dude," Pfizer seems to say, "you are responsible for your actions. If you suffer any of the following side effects, that's your responsibility. We warned you!"

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

How FDA Warnings & DTC Advertising Increase Sales of Sexual Enhancement Dietary Supplements

Here's an example of how the Internet and direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertising empowers consumers.

For several years now the FDA has been issuing warnings to consumers about "dietary supplements" that claim to enhance sexual performance or treat erectile dysfunction. According to the FDA, although it has issued "many alerts about these types of supplements over the past several years, ... their number seems to be growing" (see "FDA Consumer Corner: Cautions about Sexual Enhancement Products").

Using the Internet, FDA now has a much more direct line of communication to consumers. And consumers use the Internet to buy dietary supplements. This concerns drug companies and the FDA.

What concerns the FDA about these products? FDA states:
"FDA has found that many of these supposedly 'all natural' products actually contain ingredients that aren't on the label, and these ingredients could lead to serious and even fatal effects."
Is FDA talking about rat poison? That's what Pfizer says MAY be in such products sold over the Internet (see "Was a Rat Harmed in the Filming of This Pfizer Commercial?" and "Unsafe Drugs: Is It Counterfeiters or the Supply Chain That's the Problem?").


FDA isn't saying that these products contain dangerous ingredients like rat poison. It is claiming that they contain dangerous ingredients such as the ACTIVE ingredients of VIAGRA, CIALIS, and LEVITRA -- all FDA-approved Rx drugs.
"An FDA investigation of a number of these sexual enhancement supplements found that a third of them actually contained the same or similar ingredients to the class of prescription drugs that includes Viagra (sildenafil citrate), Cialis (tadalafil) and Levitra (vardenafil HCl)."
Hmmm... so if I buy one of these products, the chances are 1 in 3 that I will get the same active ingredient as found in Viagra/Cialis/Levitra?

OK, I know that these active ingredients can be dangerous even when sold as Viagra, Cialis, or Levitra (is Levitra still on the market?). But the TV commercials make these products sound pretty safe to me. In fact, the commercials tell me exactly what I should be concerned about: e.g., "Don't take Cialis if your take prescription drugs that contain nitrates, such as nitroglycerin."

Thanks FDA for alerting me to the fact that these dietary supplements may contain active ingredients that you have approved for human use in Rx drugs and thanks DTC advertising for educating me about the risks.

Excuse me while I search online for the best selling Sexual Enhancement Dietary Supplement.

In fact, I found a handy side-by-side comparison easily via Google search on "Sexual Enhancement Dietary Supplement" (see below). Unfortunately, I had to black out the rating symbols that appear on the original chart (which I found on, here) because Consumers Union (CU) lawyers informed me that the "rating symbols ... are confusingly similar or identical to Consumer Reports' trademarked icons and Ratings symbols. When consumers see your (sic) chart, they will not know if there is some connection between Consumers Union and the creator of these ratings. Obviously, there is not. The confusion this can engender is all the more pronounced given that Consumer Reports does write about dietary supplements, and has recently published information relating to sexual enhancement dietary supplements in particular. Needless to say, our views do not necessarily mirror yours, or those of the originator of the chart. This makes it still more crucial that all such confusion be avoided. To that end, therefore, we ask that you remove this chart from your blogs and refrain from using these particular Rating symbols in the future. Using some other shape or design will help ensure there is no confusion as to the source of the ratings."

BTW, I look forward to seeing CR's report on sexual enhancement dietary supplements. I wonder if the report includes the FDA warnings?

The CU lawyers also wanted to know how to find the original chart. It seems they are not as adept at using Google as am I!

Anyway, here's the blacked out version of the chart:

Thursday, February 18, 2010

A Snarky Look at Sneaky Marketing Tactics Pharma Hasn't Avoided

My friend Jonathan Richman (@jonmrich) often sees the pharma marketing glass half full, whereas I often see it half empty. It's just the way we are wired. The goal, however, is the same -- improve pharma marketing.

Jonathan likes lists. In a recent article entitled "10 sneaky marketing tactics you need to avoid" published on iMedia Connection, Jonathan lists some dubious marketing tactics that companies should avoid. After just a cursory reading of his list, it is obvious to me that pharmaceutical marketers have not been very good at avoiding most of these and other sneaky tactics.

#1 Sneaky Tactic Pharma Has Not Avoided: "AstroTurfing"

"Simply put," says Richman, "AstroTurfing is when a company or group creates a campaign designed to look like a grassroots consumer movement when, in fact, it's completely artificial."

Some time ago, I pointed out one instance of "astroturfing" in the pharma realm: the RLS Foundation. The Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) Foundation -- a US patient organization -- has very close ties to GSK -- a UK-based company that markets ReQuip for treatment of (RLS). In fact, I believe that the RLS Foundation was established by GSK. Here are some interesting factoids that support my thesis (see "Restless Pharma Marketing", for more details):
  • GSK is a Gold Corporate Sponsor of the RLS Foundation, which means GSK has given the foundation a good chunk of change;
  • at least one member of the Foundation's Medical Advisory Board has financial ties to a pharmaceutical company (GSK) with a treatment for RLS;
  • the PR activity of the organization seems to have picked up right when that company's drug (ReQuip) hit the market;
  • the first RLS Foundation Science Award went to Ronald L. Krall, MD, Senior VP of Worldwide Development at GSK;
  • Dr. Richard Allen, a member of the RLS Foundation's Medical Advisory Board, had the "pleasure" of "collaborating" with GSK to do studies supporting the data on the prevalence of RLS in the US and in Europe;
  • the color scheme of the RLS Foundation's Web site matches that of the Requip product site.
#2 Sneaky Tactic Pharma Has Not Avoided: Spam and violation of privacy rights

Jonathan calls this "Lucky guess (aka, we were 'smart' enough to acquire your email address, so we're sending you stuff)." This falls under the heading of contacting someone without their permission. This actually happened to me when I participated in a focus group for erectile dysfunction. I received a phone call from the agency doing the research because I requested information from the Levitra Web site -- I did not give my phone number, but gave my address so they could send me the information. The researchers were "smart enough" to obtain my phone number from my address and bingo! "Lucky guess!" Read all about my experience in the Pharma Marketing Blog post "Market Research: Privacy Matters."

#3 Sneaky Tactic Pharma Has Not Avoided: Anonymous tidying (aka, we fix what we don't like and hope you don't find out)"

"If you try to cover up your identity online, people will find out. Always," says Richman.

Oh boy! Where to start here? You can find some good examples of this sneaky tactic in my "Web 2.0 Pharma Marketing Tricks for Dummies" (click here and use code 'free68' to get it FREE). In there you'll find out how pharma marketers or their agents pose as consumers on social networks, alter Wikipedia entries about drug information, and lots more sneaky stuff.

#4 Sneaky Tactic Pharma Has Not Avoided: A little off the top (aka, we reject reality and substitute our own stylized version)

Pharma marketers routinely do this by overestimating the number of people who MAY have the medical condition that the drug is approved to treat. Sometimes, it is claimed, pharma marketers create diseases where none really exists. This is called "disease mongering." You can read about that in this Pharma Marketing News article: "Disease Mongering: When Is the Line Crossed?" I also have documented this "sneaky tactic" a number of times here on Pharma Marketing Blog. See, for example, "40over40: Lilly's DTC ED Awareness Campaign in the UK" and, more recently, "Danica Patrick: NASCAR Driver, Super Model, Superbowl Lingerie Ad Model, & COPD Spokesperson All Rolled Into one!"

I am not going to address the remaining 6 "sneaky tactics" on Richman's list; I need to take my morning shower, especially after revisiting all these sneaky tactics. Some of the tactics probably don't apply to pharma because they are used to promote consumer products in ways that pharma has not yet mastered. Or it is impossible to know if these tactics have actually been employed. Also, there are many other "sneaky tactics" that Richman doesn't mention, but which are employed by pharma marketers (see "Dummies").

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Viva Viagra Missile Guy Vows to Continue His Quixotic Fight Against Pfizer

Ayre Sachs, the retired Israeli army sergeant who parked his "erectile projectile" Viva Viagra missile in front of Pfizer's Manhattan headquarters, is not going to go softly into the night after losing his trademark infringement case to Pfizer (see "Warning to Buzz Marketers: 'Pfizer did not get the joke.'"). That's Mr. Sachs in the photo below.

"The judge was clearly blinded by the sheer power of this global corporation," said Sachs, 49, who thought it was "more than just a little coincidence" that the ruling came exactly one year after his not-so-little stunt (see "Mission Aborted for Viagra Missile").

Mr. Sachs clearly is not blinded by Pfizer's power. He acted as his own attorney in the case and vows to continue to protest against Pfizer.

AOL conducted an online poll asking "Is the Viagra missile satire or trademark infringement?" More than 6,000 people responded so far. Sixty-six percent (66%) said it was "satire, and it's funny" whereas only 6% thought it violated Pfizer's Viva Viagra trademark (see screen shot on left; click for an enlarged view).

"I just wanted to say that this was not a marketing stunt," Sachs said in a personal communication to me. "It was a fun day out. However, had it been a marketing campaign it would have been a very successful one. Pfizer got a huge coverage around the world after only two days on the road and a law suit. Imagine what could it done if they would have really embraced it? " He based his opinion on the AOL poll results.

Sachs is most concerned that the judge refused to include his own survey results as evidence that the Viagra trademarks are not entitled to trademark protection because they have become so famous that they are now generic. The survey asked "what brand name they would use to describe an erectile dysfunction drug." The judgment described Sach's survey as an "ad hoc" survey of 100 people that was not created by a professional and that recruited respondents via Craigslist.

Sachs had this to say about that:

"The survey was NOT done by anything related to Craig List. It was done by law students who have either finished Law School and where awaiting the bar exam or a 2nd and 3rd year law students who presented people in public places with a questioner (sic) that proved that the public will use the name Viagra as a generic name to ED twice as much as they will use established generic names such as Kleenex for tissue paper and Escalator to moving stairs. I used Craig List to place a recruiting ad...that is all!"

Sachs claims that close to 400 people filled out his survey by hand!

" no one can say anything about the integrity of the survey in oppose to 'Professional' polling company where half to all the stuff are part time regular students or starving actors / out of home moms etc."

Any "professional" polling companies out there want to respond to Sachs' criticism of their staff's creds?

"I do not mind to lose fair and square," said Sachs. "I went out there knowing the risk having fun with that name on one of my missiles. I rejected three offers to drop the case from Pfizer knowing the risk - no problem. But I do not want to go down as an idiot who polled 100 people on Craig's list after all the work and efforts that went in to this survey. The Judge can just reject it as un admissible (sic) but not they he did it apparently not even reading it."

Speaking of unprofessional surveys, the AOL survey is also flawed in that it does not include the choice "Funny, satire (maybe), but definitely infringed trademark." That's how I would have voted.

P.S. Regarding the court's reference to exhibiting the "Viagra-branded missile at an adult entertainment exposition in New Jersey with a banner promoting its advertising services," Sachs remarked "Who are we kidding here? The adult industry is one of [Pfizer's] larger consumer group who uses Viagra for recreational purposes."

Hmmm...I wonder if Sachs has survey data to back up that claim?

Monday, October 27, 2008

Chantix + Viagra = ChanGra-La for Pfizer?

A time-honored strategy pharmaceutical companies use to keep brands alive after patent expiry is to combine one brand with another to create a combination pill. Pfizer, for example, has combined Lipitor and Norvasc to create Caduet.

I suggest that Pfizer start thinking about its Viagra erectile dysfunction (ED) franchise. Viagra will go off patent as early as 2011.

One specific suggestion I have is to combine Viagra with Chantix (indicated for smoking cessation). I call this combination "ChanGra-La," which is pronounced virtually the same as Shangri-La, the mystical, harmonious, earthly paradise and utopia described in the novel Lost Horizon.

"What," you may ask, "could justify such a combination?"

Glad you asked!

According to an Italian study mentioned in a BMJ news item ("Erectile dysfunction may be an early sign of heart disease, suggests new research"), of 860 middle aged men, 40% of men who had erectile dysfunction (ED) smoked heavily, compared with 4% in the control group. Another study provided a link between ED and heart disease: "A pilot study by Greek researchers evaluated the incidence of asymptomatic coronary artery disease in 26 men with erectile dysfunction and found that nearly a quarter (23%) had coronary artery disease confirmed by angiography," reported BMJ.

In other words, if a pill like ChanGra-La can simultaneously help middle-aged men quit smoking AND obtain an erection, that therapy would have an extra-added benefit of preventing future heart attacks. A virtual "Shangri-La" for Pfizer!

There would be added benefits as well. Chantix, for example, has some notable "side effects," such as vivid "dreams" or hallucinations that may heighten a man's sexual experience. In fact, many dreams associated with Chantix are sexual in nature (see "Chantix Californication Dreamin': Viagra II"). This should not surprise anyone who knows that Chantix works by competing with nicotine to stimulate the brain's pleasure center.

One problem I foresee is that both Viagra and Chantix are not approved to be taken in daily doses or for a long period of time. Pfizer, however, should easily be able to find a work-around. After all, there is now a daily dosage form for Cialis, which competes with Viagra.

The Chantix portion of ChanGra-La is a bigger problem. It is recommended that Chantix be taken for only 12 weeks, whereas ChanGra-La would have to be taken indefinitely to be effective. I'm not sure how to get around this -- maybe have an alternating 12-week cycle of ChanGra-La with Chantix followed by a cycle of Chantix replaced by a placebo compound (eg, sugar), etc.

Obviously, such a regimen would require not just a pill, but also a support "program." Pfizer already has some related experience from its Chantix "GETQUIT Support Program." For ChanGra-La, I suggest a "GETHARD Support Program."

"But hasn't Pfizer recently announced it would no longer invest in cardiovascular drug research?," you might ask.

Yes it has. But the beauty of the ChanGra-La strategy is that it requires virtually no R&D, just a little trial at worst.

Approval by FDA should be a cinch. There's probably no middle-aged man out there who would not like to take ChanGra-La and since most FDA advisory committee members and reviewers are closed!

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

The Erectile Projectile: A New Form of Outdoor Advertising

"You don't tug on Superman's cape," says Jim Croce, and you don't mess around with Pfizer! That's a lesson some guys from West Babylon, NY (ie, Long Island) learned when they parked a missile emblazoned with the Viva Viagra logo in front of the Pfizer headquarters in NYC (see Pharmalot for the story about the lawsuit Pfizer has initiated against the West Babylon guys).

The "guys from West Babylon" actually have a company called JetAngel, which intends to put logos on a number of different types of military ordinance. JetAngel's concept “takes the target marketing capabilities of mobile billboards and adds an experience for consumers to achieve the ultimate viewer captivation. It is a new, non-traditional outdoor medium that has no competition. We can capture the consumer’s attention and engage them one-on-one with an advertising message that has proven to provide a positive reaction.”

The company's quaint website is chock full of images of military projectiles parked in a West Babylon backyard. But you won't find the Viva Viagra missile among them.

Instead, I found this Levitra missile appropriately displayed attached to one of the guys (see image on left). Bayer, which markets Levitra, is no Superman in the pharmaceutical pantheon and that may explain the switcheroo. Or perhaps these guys are geniuses of word-of-mouth litigation marketing!

JetAngel's "Corporate Offices"
When I first saw this and other photos on the JetAngel website, I was sure the location was somewhere on Long Island, maybe even Brooklyn, NY, where I lived as a kid. West Babylon is not that far off.

Just for fun, I located JetAngel's "Corporate Offices" using Google Earth and just as I suspected, it is located in a middle-class suburban residential neighborhood.

I wonder what JetAngel's neighbors think of all the missiles and other projectiles parked next door? The guys from West Babylon may have many more lawsuits to contend with before they make any money from their "new, non-traditional outdoor medium that has no competition."

Sung to the tune of "You Don't Mess Around With Jim":

Uptown got its hustlers
Bowery got its bums
And 42nd street got big Pfizer Pharma
It's a pill poppin' son of a gun
Ya, it's big and dumb as a drug company can come
But stronger than a suburban backhoe
And when the bad marketing folks all get together at night
You know they all call big Pfizer's ceo, just because, and they say

You don't tug on Superman's cape
You don't spit into the wind
You don't pull the mask off the old Lone Ranger
And you don't mess around with Pfizer, da do da do...

Well out of West Babyon come a suburban guy
He said, "I'm looking for a company named Pfizer
I am a pill poppin' ad boy, my name is JetAngel, the real OOH McCoy
And I'm looking for the king of 42nd street
Last week he took all my mom's money, and it may sound funny
But I've come to get her money back in advertising," and everybody said, Jack, don't you know

You don't tug on Superman's cape
You don't spit into the wind
You don't pull the mask off the old Lone Ranger
And you don't mess around with Pfizer, da do da do...

Well a hush fell over pharma land
When big Pfizer come boppin' off 42nd street
And when the cuttin' was done
The only part that wasn't bloody was the soles of JetAngel's feet
And you better believe they did NOT sing a different kind of story
When JetAngel hit the floor

You don't tug on Superman's cape
You don't spit into the wind
You don't pull the mask off the old Lone Ranger
And you don't mess around with Pfizer, da do da do...

(I changed the outcome -- the "Big Guy" wins, as in real life.)

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

40over40: Lilly's DTC ED Awareness Campaign in the UK

For those of you who believe there's no such thing as direct to consumer (DTC) "advertising" outside the US, let me offer this: "Lilly launches television campaign for ED awareness."

Although this campaign is technically "direct to consumer" it does not qualify as "advertising" under European law because it is unbranded, which means that no drug trade name is mentioned and there is no direct inducement to buy a product. Such unbranded DTC disease awareness advertising is also common in the US (see, for example, Pfizer's recent battered woman fibromyalgia disease awareness ad campaign described here).

The Lilly campaign, dubbed '40over40', is said to be "groundbreaking" being the "first time a UK-targeted campaign of this kind has appeared on British television."

"The campaign aims to dispel the common belief that erectile dysfunction affects only elderly men. It has been dubbed '40over40' due to new statistics that show erectile dysfunction (ED) actually affects 40% of men over the age of 40."

An integral part of the campaign is the Website, which claims "This site is designed to help you enjoy your love life again." This site fits in with Lilly's plan to "encourage sex between couples" (see "Look Out for Sexier Cialis Ads -- Maybe Including Beaver!").

ED agesThis whole notion that ED "affects" 40% of men over 40 is something I take issue with and have noted before as ED drug DTC ads in the US portrayed younger and younger men as sufferers of ED (see here). As the chart on the left shows, I saw this coming over 3 years ago.

According to 40over40: "Erectile Dysfunction (ED) is a common condition, 40% of men over 40 suffer from some degree of erection problem. If you are one of the 40% of men over 40 who also has experienced this problem you're certainly not alone and you've arrived at the right site for reassurance and advice."

The operative phrase is "some degree," which is another one of those "subjective" phrases that can mean almost anything. What Lilly wants you to think, however, is that 40% of men over 40 suffer from ED, period! Not from rare or occasional problems getting an erection -- not that there's anything wrong with that!

Now here comes the interesting part.

A section of the site is about "ED treatment options," which includes a table listing oral treatments, penile injections (ouch!), and vacuum pumps (hmmmm...). But due to EU laws banning DTC advertising, the site cannot mention oral treatments by name and must refer to them as "product 1," "product 2," and "product 3."

Visitors are urged to talk to their doctors about treatment options -- doc, I would like "product 1" please. Huh? I suppose Lilly sales reps can prep doctors so that they know that "product 1" = Cialis when UK guys come in and ask for it.

Soon, however, pharmaceutical companies in Europe may be able to distribute drug information such as Patient Information Leaflets (PILs) to consumers and may be updated to allow UK guys to download a PIL about Cialis.

But remember that "news" article I linked to above entitled "Lilly launches television campaign for ED awareness"? That's the PR Rosetta stone that allows UK consumers to decipher that "product 1" is really Cialis: the article tells us that Lilly markets Cialis and is also responsible for

Who says there is no DTC advertising in Europe?

UPDATE: Sex drug campaign ‘violated rules’

By Andrew Jack
[As reported in the London Financial Times]

Eli Lilly is to be reprimanded by the UK pharmaceutical industry watchdog for “unbalanced” promotion of its anti-erectile dysfunction drug Cialis, in violation of ethical rules.

The Prescription Medicines Code of Practice Authority has ruled that the US-based company “brought discredit” on the industry through a marketing campaign on television, the internet and in brochures in GP surgeries in the UK.

It said the company had presented information on its medicine that failed to cite the side-effects or risks, and in a way that would have encouraged patients to seek a prescription for Cialis.

The judgment, triggered by an FT article highlighting the campaign, is to be released shortly and has been accepted by Eli Lilly, which stopped using the criticised aspects of its campaign last month.

It concerned one of the most ambitious “disease awareness” campaigns so far conducted in the UK, funded by Eli Lilly as the manufacturer of Cialis. The “40 over 40” campaign claimed that 40 per cent of men aged over 40 had problems with erectile dysfunction, and provided treatment options, listed without the brand names on its website but including them in a brochure distributed for doctors’ waiting rooms.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Look Out for Sexier Cialis Ads -- Maybe Including Beaver!

Now that the FDA has approved Cialis for once daily use for the treatment of erectile dysfunction (ED; see Lilly press release), expect to see a twist to direct-to-consumer (DTC) ads for the drug: sexier late- night ads!

Lately, almost all ED drug ads -- especially Cialis and Levitra ads -- are focusing a lot more on the women in the ads. Not in any kind of prurient manner as yet, but showing them fairly jumping on their male companions' bones, if you know what I mean. They're acting like horny teenage girls! But it's still very sweet and loving.

ED ads have progressed from older celebrity male endorsers (eg, Bob Dole) to younger male actors only hinting at having a better sex life (Viagra's Joe commercials) to ads that include couples on the verge of having sex. Now, we are about to progress to the next level.

I just learned that Abelson-Taylor (AT) -- the agency that brought us Abe Lincoln and the beaver in the Rozerem ads (see "Rozerem Ads Dis Lincoln, Show Beaver") and Cialis' consumer agency of record -- may be developing a campaign "geared toward men who plan to have sex twice a week or more." This according to my Richard Meyer over at the World of DTC Marketing (see "Cialis to encourage more sex between couples").

AT -- as regular readers of Pharma Marketing Blog know -- is not my favorite ad agency, although they have won numerous awards and kudos from their advertising buddies for creating ads that "break through the clutter" (see here). The most famous AT DTC campaign, of course, are the Rozerem ads that feature Abe Lincoln and a beaver.

So, how can AT "break through" the current clutter of ED ads for once-daily Cialis? You just cannot have the same old doting women clinging to their men and attempting to guide them to the bedroom. That's the clutter right now. No, you have to go to the NEXT step -- women and men together in the bedroom or women wearing sexy Victoria's Secret-style lingerie or, better yet, both!

According to Lilly, "wholesale pricing for Cialis for once daily use will be comparable to Cialis for use as needed such that patients who currently use two or more pills per week of Cialis for use as needed should not experience higher treatment costs with Cialis for once daily use."

Given that marketing must be consistent with this pricing, any DTC campaign MUST appeal to men who want to have sex 2-3 times per week.

What kind of ED ad would appeal to these guys? Not the kind we've been seeing where couples are engaged in pre-coitus romancing. Guys who want sex 2-3 times per week don't have time for leisurely baths, going out to dinner or strolling down a country lane with their partners. They're not the mull cider types -- they want hard liquor and get drunk fast!

We already have Victoria Secret TV ads, sexual encounter pizza ads ("What do we do for the other 28 minutes"), and girl-on-girl mud-fight beer ads. Why not sexy ED drug ads?

I don't think, however, that there will be any "beaver" in the new Cialis ads. I just threw that in the title of this post to get your attention -- to break through the clutter as it were.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Viva Lovey-Dovey Viagra!

According to a University of Wisconsin-Madison physiology professor, Meyer Jackson, Viagra and other erectile dysfunction (ED) drugs "could be doing more than just affecting erectile dysfunction." Namely, Viagra increases the release of oxytocin, a key reproductive hormone (see press release here).

Sometimes called the "love hormone" or "cuddle chemical," oxytocin plays several important roles in social interactions and reproduction, including triggering uterine contractions and lactation. It is also released during orgasm and has been linked to sexual arousal.

No, this study was NOT funded by Pfizer, GSK, or Bayer, all of which market ED drugs. It was funded by NIH.

Jackson discovered this phenom in rats, measuring oxytocin released from rat pituitaries in response to neural stimulation. When the pituitaries were treated with sildenafil, they responded to the stimulation by releasing three times as much oxytocin as they did without the drug.
Sidebar: Sing the praises of these rats sacrificed for the betterment of man (and, by "man," I mean men, not women). To measure oxytocin release, researches must cut off the heads of the rats and mash their brains. A long time ago, I worked in a brain chemistry research lab guillotining many a rat. So I know how these things are done!
Furthering the Viva Viagra Cause!
"I hope that this doesn't cause some wild orgy of inappropriate recreational use," said Jackson.

Now why would you worry about that, Dr. Jackson? Perhaps because Pfizer's latest Viva Viagra DTC campaign (see "Viva Viagra Ad is No Cure for Morte Sales") has put the issue of recreational use on the front burner once again?
"Pfizer has been an outlier in shamelessly promoting Viagra as a party drug," said Michael Weinstein, the president of AIDS Healthcare Foundation. "All those Sin City references, everything associated with Vegas, that is what they want the association to be. It's not about a medical condition, it's about performance anxiety" (see "Pfizer Sings 'Viva Viagra' to Boost Sales of Its Drug").
Regarding limp ED sales, once the buzz about this study gets going, could we see an uptick in Viagra sales? If so, will Pfizer claim that its new DTC campaign is responsible?

Importantly, the drug had little if any effect on hormone release in the absence of stimulation. Interesting. What about self-stimulation while on Viagra or Cialis? Would that increase one's oxytocin levels and thereby increase one's affection for one-self? Inquiring minds want to know.

But any increase in lovey-dovey feelings induced by Viagra may be short-lived: "instead of (oxytocin levels) coming down in a minute or two, they stay up a little longer," said Jackson.

Maybe long enough for men to utter the words "I love you" after the act. Which may or may not be a good thing if chemically induced!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Why Do DTC Ads - "Viva Viagra" included - Stink?

Lately, we've been witnessing a regression of sorts in the quality of DTC (Direct-to-Consumer) Rx drug ads. The recent "Viva Viagra" ad, for example, is a throwback to the days before Congress was serious about banning DTC or imposing more restrictions on DTC (see "Viva Viagra Ad is No Cure for Morte Sales").

The Viva Viagra campaign also reneges on Pfizer's pledge back in 2005 to focus more on disease awareness in its DTC advertising. At the time, I said that erectile dysfunction (ED) ads would be the litmus test for this change in policy (see "Pfizer DTC Pledge: ED is Litmus Test"). Well, it seems that Pfizer has failed the test.
Viva DTC Old-school Style!
It should be noted, however, that in the Pfizer press release about its pledge (which no longer can be found on Pfizer's site), the phrase "in 2006" was used to qualify the terms of the pledge. I guess now that we are well into 2007 and Congress has removed any mention of mandatory DTC moratoriums in the PDUFA legislation, there's no longer a need to look good in public. So party on, you DTC marketing animals!
"Unfortunately," says Richard Meyer of World of DTC Marketing, "Viva Viagra is another reason that real good DTC is on life support and maybe DOA."

Not only do these ads fail to live up to promises of educating the public about medical conditions, they also STINK! At least in terms of delivering return on marketing investment. Rozerem is definitely spending more on marketing than it is getting in return (see "Rozerem Ad Spending Exceeds Sales!"). The same fate may await Viagra -- it's difficult to imagine the ad enticing more men to talk about erectile dysfunction with their physicians, which is Pfizer's stated goal for the ad.
"I worked with the DTC team on the launch of Cialis and learned first hand the barriers that many face to seeking treatment for this condition that effects couples. These barriers cannot be overcome with a jingle of images of couples in bathtubs." -- Richard Meyer.
Why Do DTC Ads Stink?
Why do these ads stink at delivering ROI although they are highly memorable and score highly in typical focus groups?

Lee Weinblatt, CEO of The PreTesting Company, which tests the ads and commercials of over 300 of the world’s largest companies, thinks he knows why. The typical methodology for measuring DTC effectiveness, claims Weinblatt, "is leading pharmaceutical DTC advertisers down the wrong path."

What, then, is the right path?

Podcast Today at 1 PM!
Tune in today to a live podcast interview of Weinblatt in which he will answer that and the following questions:
  1. What major problems have you seen with DTC ads? Are drug ads too much like package goods ads?
  2. What about the agencies that drug companies use to create their ads? Are they up to the task? If not, why not?
  3. Why are recall and likability of ads meaningless?
  4. What should be the measure of ROI for DTC campaigns? Does increase in market share figure into that calculation?
  5. What does the Pharma marketing executive need to know about how ad performance? How does Pretesting deliver on that? How do Pretesting Company's techniques differ from other company's techniques?
  • Live Podcast Date: Wednesday, July 25, 2007, 1 PM Eastern US time
  • Duration: Approx. 35 minutes
  • Go to the Pharma Marketing Talk Channel Page to listen LIVE at the designated time or afterward to listen to the audio archive on the Web with your browser. After the live podcast you can also click on a button below to listen to the streaming audio archive on your computer or to download the show for playback on your iPod or other portal audio player.
Smell ya later! Ha, ha!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Viva Viagra Ad is No Cure for Morte Sales

According to a report on, "Pfizer is struggling to boost sales of Viagra, which have fallen 11 percent to $1.7 billion since 2003, when Eli Lilly & Co.'s Cialis and Bayer AG's Levitra became available." (See "Pfizer Sings `Viva Viagra' to Boost Sales of Impotence Drug")

Once again, Pfizer turns to direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertising to reverse it's loss of market share. The latest ad ran last night on NBC Nightly News. It featured a boomer boy band (see screen shots below) singing to the Elvis tune of "Viva Las Vegas" only this time it was "Viva Viagra" they were shouting.

"Viva" now adorns the website and all ads for Viagra online.

Of course, some naysayers accuse Pfizer of playing up the link between Sin City (Las Vegas) and recreational use of Viagra. Viagra, they say, is a treatment for a serious medical condition -- erectile dysfunction. Viagra ads, they say, should focus on educating consumers about this condition, explain the treatment options, and encourage men to ask their doctors about the symptoms and treatment.

That, after all, is the benefits of DTC according to PhRMA's Guiding Principles, which claim:

"A strong empirical record demonstrates that DTC communications about prescription medicines serve the public health by:
  • Increasing awareness about diseases;
  • Educating patients about treatment options;
  • Motivating patients to contact their physicians and engage in a dialogue about health concerns;
  • Increasing the likelihood that patients will receive appropriate care for conditions that are frequently under-diagnosed and under-treated; and
  • Encouraging compliance with prescription drug treatment regimens."
Unfortunately, there's not enough time in 60 seconds to do the song and ALSO explain ALL this! Something had to give and the Viagra ad agency went with the catchy song instead of the boring education.

Instead of education, viewers only got to hear the indication, a sales claim, and the standard "Talk to your doctor" statement as in: "Talk to your doctor about Viagra, America's most prescribed treatment for erectile dysfunction. Learn more at" The words "erectile dysfunction" (ER) appeared in small type and no mention was made that ER may be a condition associated with more serious medical conditions like high blood pressure and diabetes.

In contrast, Lilly continues to run more serious Cialis ads that discuss the causes of ED. So while Viagra marketers fiddle with the Viva theme, Cialis sales continue to burn up the ED market! At this rate, Viagra soon may NOT be America's "most prescribed treatment for erectile dysfunction."

No Women Here!
In a departure from previous Viagra ads and most other ED ads I've seen, there are NO women in the Viva Viagra ad. It's just a bunch of good old (well, not so old) guys in what looks like an abandoned roadhouse having some fun with their instruments -- not that there's anything wrong with that! At the end of the ad, they all SEEM to go their separate ways -- home to their "honey's" I suppose.

Along with the recent Exubera ad, this ad firmly places Pfizer in my League of Undistinguished DTC Advertisers.

Screen shots of the Viva Viagra video as seen on Web site


Got me a honey gonna set my soul,
gonna set my soul on fire!
At the end of the day
I'm not a guy to stray
because she's my heart desire.

Now this lonesome toad
is sick of the road
I can't wait

CHORUS; Can't wait!

I can't wait to go home.

CHORUS: Viva Viagra! Viva, VIva, VIVA VIAGRA!


Tuesday, May 15, 2007

No Goopy ED Gel in GSK's Futura

According to the Financial Times, GlaxoSmithKline unexpectedly handed back the development rights to Futura's erectile dysfunction gel, a sample of which is shown on the left (just kidding! See story here.)

"The drug, which has completed Phase II trials, would have been an alternative to Viagra, the current market leader developed by Pfizer."

"We are not going to progress on this particular compound for normal commercial reasons which we do not wish to go into," GSK said.

Let me guess why this gel, if it were developed, may not be a commercial success. A gel may have some utility among solo sexual aficionados who would benefit from the gel's dual action as an penile enhancer and a lubricant, but I imagine things could get a bit sloppy during normal male-female bilateral sexual encounters.

Obviously DTC ads could not be targeted to the solo sex male practitioner -- it just wouldn't fly in Peoria (or Congress).

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Pfizer's Erection Hardness Meter

According to Jude Selvaraj, Pfizer's medical adviser in Singapore and Malaysia, "an estimated 20 percent of Asian men suffer from erectile dysfunction," whereas on the US Web site, Pfizer claims "ED is more common than you might think. More than half of all men over 40 have some difficulty getting and maintaining an erection. The fact is, guys at any age can experience ED." Since this is a US site, I assume Pfizer is talking about US men.

The context of Mr. Selvaraj's remarks, which were published The China Post, aka AFP, was the launch of a new diagnostic kit to help men deal with erectile dysfunction. (Hat tip to Pharmalot for digging this up.)
"It is a prevalent issue," Jude Selvaraj, Pfizer's medical adviser in Singapore and Malaysia, told AFP at the launch of Pfizer's new diagnostic kit to help men deal with erectile dysfunction.

"You are talking about 20 percent plus," he said, giving a rough figure.
OK, which is it? 20%, "20 percent plus," or 40%? Why does Pfizer imply that twice as many men in the US than in Asia suffer from ED? Are we American men inadequate? Is it obesity? Or, perhaps, Pfizer is bowing to cultural norms (you know, kissing some ass before Malaysia breaks Viagra's patent):
Sex is still a taboo subject in much of Asia and many men are reluctant to admit they suffer from the problem, or to seek medical help, said Selvaraj.
A ha! Pfizer better not set the bar too high. But then again, maybe Asian men just don't give a damn about "erectile quality": "A survey released last week," AFP reports, "said Asia's lovers rate sex far less highly than those elsewhere around the globe, spend less time having intercourse and are not as likely to reach orgasm." Their head just isn't in the game!

Some more numbers were mentioned in the article:
According to Pfizer, which makes the anti-impotency drug Viagra, erectile dysfunction affects between 13 and 28 percent of all men aged 40 to 80.

The number of men suffering from the condition is estimated to increase to 322 million by 2025, from more than 152 million in 1995, Pfizer said.
I don't know where Pfizer is getting these numbers from. I have pointed out before than ED drug marketers are engaged in a bit of BS here -- ie, taking some government data and stretching it somewhat:
According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, National Institutes of Health, "Incidence [of ED] increases with age: About 5 percent of 40-year-old men and between 15 and 25 percent of 65-year-old men experience ED." (See "ED Drug Sales Limp".)
20%, 28%, 40%, 30 million Americans (Levitra's claim)... whatever! It's all MULTIPLE times the incidence cited by NIH.

But back to the interesting stuff: that new diagnostic kit! (see photo at top)
Pfizer's new diagnostic kit, the Erection Hardness Score (EHS), grades erection hardness from one to four to provide a guide for assessing sexual status.

A score of four means the penis is completely rigid while a score of one means it is larger but not hard, Pfizer said in a statement.

"The EHS provides a quantitative measure of the degree of erection hardness and therefore treatment efficacy in patients with erectile dysfunction," the firm [pun intended?] said.

Victoria Lehmann, a sex therapist from Britain, said the EHS was easy to use and would help couples address the problem. [I don't see how!]

Lehmann likened a score of one to tofu. Four is similar to a cucumber, she said.
Several bloggers in the Pharma Blogosphere want to know what foods a score of 2 and 3 can be likened to. I would say 3 is a banana and 2 is 2-week old rhubarb. What do you think?
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