Blog | Thursday, September 4, 2008

Flat bellies sell, bees not so much

Direct-to-consumer drug advertising may not work as well as is commonly believed, a study in the British Medical Journal found.

Canadian researchers looked at three heavily advertised drugs--Zelnorm, Nasonex and Enbrel--and compared prescription rates in English-speaking regions (which were subjected to U.S. TV ads) and French-speaking areas (which weren't). The Zelnorm ads caused a big jump (42%) in prescribing right after the ads started in English areas, but the other ads appeared to have no effect. And prescriptions for the IBS drug soon dropped off, even though ads continued.

Researchers speculated that the award-winning effectiveness of the ad (Remember those trim female abdomens with happy messages written on them?) and the lack of competition for the drug (no alternatives were approved) may explain its unique success, and the dropoff could be attributed to how the drug itself turned out not to work very well and be dangerous.

So what's it all mean? Perhaps some of you already thought this, but the study authors now believe that "a substantial portion of expenditure on such advertising--borne by governments, insurers, and patients in the form of higher costs or by companies as reduced profits--may be better spent elsewhere."

Is it time to say goodbye to the Nasonex bee?