Friday, December 15, 2006

Think how I'd feel if I had ever actually worked on a pharma account

It's perfectly understandable that physicians would detest pharma advertising. After all, wouldn't that media money be better spent providing them with cruises, topless dancers or "research" funds? Besides, it must be hard to concentrate what with patients always talking, always asking their pesky little questions.

But when regular people complain -- I don't know. Is that just the common tendency to suspect any big industry? Or is it patronizing and a little cold-hearted?

I only ask because this article seems to give voice to the very people who are almost never heard from in this debate: the sufferers -- and you don't have to be at death's door to truly, noticeably suffer. If you have a good health plan, if you have a trusted doctor, drug ads may be lost on you. But for others, a TV spot may be the only way they learn of a life-changing drug -- and this shouldn't make them less deserving of treatment.


Make the logo bigger said...

I hate pharma.

I don't have a problem with that angle of pharma, in that it can reach someone who otherwise may not have heard about a drug in question, but how much does that happen really?

Half the ads are side effects warnings, things which, shouldn't the physician ultimately be telling patients when they go in for a visit anyway? They prescribe the stuff and are therefor the ones responsible to tell people about the warnings.

What other category has half it's commercial time or print space devoted to describing the BAD things that can happen?

And at the end of the day, these 50-page warnings STILL don't prevent deaths from using a drug rushed to market that the FDA decided to greenlight and that pharma companies figured they would field test and work out the kinks. And that's the biggest disconnect between pharma advertising and what's happening imo.

Pharmaseutra advertising - an orgy of medaphors: Power. Strength. Control. Strong power that controls.

Uggg. Rant over.


Irene Done said...

Are you saying that drug ads should have more or less restrictions to be of value?

You can’t bar an industry from advertising just because its creative execution has always sucked. Legal restrictions and disclaimers are obviously a function of outside forces, not of the companies themselves. And if there’s a rush to market, that’s a problem that, as you point out, needs to be fixed earlier in the process. It’s separate from the issue of advertising.

When people talk about banning drug advertising to consumers, I get scared for two reasons. One, I think a drug company should be able to market their products, make money, re-invest in more research, rinse and repeat until eventually it all helps me. Second, advertising in its way lets people take a role in their own healthcare. Yes, a doctor should be the ultimate decision-maker (even though pharma courts them too) but why can’t I be exposed to new messages? If you say regular people can’t be trusted to make decisions about their own healthcare, then I think you invite a kind of paternalistic, regulatory oversight that you’ll one day regret.

HighJive said...

When people talk about drug advertising to consumers, I get scared for two reasons: the Viagra and Rozerem campaigns.

Make the logo bigger said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Make the logo bigger said...

Sorry hj, I broke the unwritten comments-longer-than-original-post rule. I really tried not to though. I really did.

"Are you saying that drug ads should have more or less restrictions to be of value?"

No, I'm saying the warnings that come with the ads get in the way of the message, because there's simply too many of them. What other product category has its possible negative attributes listed in the messaging?

"Remember: never Microwave your unopened can of Pepsi."

“Craftsmen mowers hurt when you stick your foot near the running blade.“

“Starbucks hot coffee tastes great as long as you don’t pour it in your children‘s eyes.”

Those are extreme examples of course. (See your doctor for more details.) But seriously, where do we draw the line now? Does Jif run disclaimers that certain children can die from allergic reactions to peanut butter, so avoid contact with anyone after eating a PBJ sandwich? (And is there really a better product name than ‘Jif’ I ask you.)

That Cabernet from Napster Valley has sulfates, which can cause instant death in those suffering from alergic reactions to sulfates?

“Yes, a doctor should be the ultimate decision-maker (even though pharma courts them too) but why can’t I be exposed to new messages? If you say regular people can’t be trusted to make decisions about their own healthcare, then I think you invite a kind of paternalistic, regulatory oversight that you’ll one day regret.”

You should be exposed to pharma messages absolutely, I’m not saying otherwise. I'm just saying the ads shouldn't be 75% warnings. People can be trusted, but the final say so on the best course of treatment has to come from a doctor, at which point, they certainly can spend more than the :30 seconds TV spots do explaining ALL the warnings.

Ad copy doesn’t get pharma companies off the hook, yet they act like it with all their legal disclaimers. What do they prevent?

Because if the warnings are there to offset the promises made in the ad, like: "lowers cholesterol" “less pain" etc., then you have to not over-promise so much. Other than that scenario? I see no need for so many warnings.

They do not prevent people from taking something they shouldn't. The problems that occur aren't due to lack of information in ads, or too much for that matter. They arise from side effects the FDA knows are inherent but chooses to greenlight anyway, figuring that a few side effects/deaths are to be expected.

Or the elderly person who takes the wrong dosage because she can't read the label. How do legal warnings prevent those things, you know?

Even if I had all the information known to man in a given ad, as a consumer/patient I still am going to trust that doctor first above all else in a visit. (Tell me how many women really trust that home test kit to see if it's blue or not.

And if it is? Aren't they still going to the doctor to verify the result with...wait for it...another test kit. Professional version this time at 5x the OTC cost.

So they can spare me all the legal copy mumbo-jumbo warnings and focus on the other point: bad advertising. (Which is separate from legalese issue, I agree.) Speaking of, I find it funny that all pharma ads repeat their main message multiple times per ad.

Because Lipitor takes care of the two sources of Cholesterol: your Uncle Charlie – and your Uncle Charlie’s Barbeque cheese fries. Like we said, take care of BOTH kinds of cholesterol: your family – and your family functions.

I would be happy with this simple warning, similar to the ‘Professional driver on closed course: do not attempt’ warnings on auto ads:

“See your doctor for more information and possible side effects, or visit our website.”

(maybe amend the latter to include: ‘...or have the son who never calls or visits you show you how to use the internet when he stops by in the spring.‘)

And remember, Lipitor can help combat the two sources of cholesterol: Aunt Mary’s pies – and her genes.

The other thing I notice about pharma names is that while they really try and capture the benefits of the brand, I can’t help but think they come off sounding like enemies of Godzilla or some super hero:

Crestor fights Godzilla for control of Japan.

This is what happens when I rant about pharma on 650 calories a day.

Irene Done said...

MTLB -- What are these rules you speak of? It's the internets and this is, as Michael Eisner knows, a brog. Anyone can leave a comment of any length, especially if it makes me laugh. I think we mainly agree about pharma because I too think the warnings are pointless and serve only to keep lawyers employed.

But you are wrong, wrong, wrong about Crestor. It was Vytorin who fought Godzilla for control of Japan. Everyone knows that.

Make the logo bigger said...

Ha, I saw that stupid ad last night after my 300-mile comment, but was too tired to fix it. I already deleted the damn thing four times trying to fix typos.

For I am Vytorin – master of the third realm. All pay heed.

HighJive said...

On the one hand, pharma ads require all the disclaimers because the advertisers have established themselves as being untrustworthy and downright sleazy.

On the other hand, traditional advertisers from industries like fast food, financial services, political organizations, etc. are no less evil.

Anonymous said...

Actually, PHARMACISTS are much smarter about drugs & their side effects than doctors are. I've worked with pharmacists...& I have several chronic illnesses, so I know whereof I speak. I would NEVER trust a doc to tell me all the side effects. I've had several bad experiences--I MUST know everything about each drug I have to take. Thank goodness I used to work with my pharmacist.

Irene Done said...

Anonymous -- that's interesting. I never thought of how important pharmacists can be in the whole process but you're absolutely right. It's likely that pharmacists often spend more time with patients than some doctors do.

Anonymous said...

Same anonymous as before--call me Lyn. I'm not sure if pharmacy companies "court" pharmacists, but they definitely do docs. They're such pests, those pharmacy reps! (I've worked in docs' offices a bit, as well as an in-house hospital pharmacy as a tech.)

Since I posted the last comment, I've had 2 more bad side effects that made me stop taking 2 meds. And one was a Parkinson's drug--I don't have that illness! Why a rheumatologist prescribed that for me still mystifies me--I think he thought it'd help my fibromyalgia & insomnia. It made me throw up.

I am extremely frustrated when patients themselves don't know what side effects their meds have! My mom doesn't & it worries me. She just takes whatever her doc gives her. *sigh*

Blind faith in doctors is NOT a good thing! Or pharmacists, but they can certainly tell you if your multiple drugs will be incompatible. EVERY patient should talk to his/her pharmacist--& get ALL their meds from ONE pharmacy. Computer programs also help the pharmacists keep track of interactions between meds.