Last Updated Nov 5, 2009 10:33 AM EST
"I think it's, uh, Ambien that says you might go out to eat and not remember," said one patient in the study. "I thought, 'great, all I need.' " The campaign cost Sanofi (SNY) $151 million last year, and Ambien sales actually fell by 37%, to $806 million.There has been a quiet drumbeat of recent reports suggesting the link between advertising and drug sales is weak at best. In the last couple of years, adspend on antidepressants and sleeping pills was drastically reduced, but due to stress caused by the recession prescriptions of both types of drugs went up.
And a Harvard study comparing consumer response between English and French-speaking Canada (where viewers are presumably unaffected by U.S. drug advertising) showed no difference across the launch of three drugs, Nasonex, Enbrel and Zelnorm. Most recently, an ad hoc poll on a New York Times blog found a solid majority of readers dislike direct-to-consumer (or DTC, in industry lingo) advertising.
The industry itself has mixed feelings about the practice. William Burns, Roche (RHHBY.PK)'s head of pharmaceuticals, once said of DTC:
Direct-to-consumer promotion was the single worst decision for the industry.But AstraZeneca (AZN) CEO David Brennan said it's a matter of "when, not if," Europe adopts DTC advertising.
The drug industry is lobbying against proposals in Congress -- such as this bill by Sen. Al Franken -- to end the tax deduction for drug advertising. But why? If ads are an unproductive expense on your income statement that's only there because rival companies are doing the same thing (and you don't want to give away a marginal advantage), wouldn't it be better for the industry as a whole to allow such a tax to make DTC more unproductive still? It might save everyone some money.
Image: The Nasonex bee, which is to blame for the FDA's new proposed restrictions on drug ads.
- Sen. Franken Wants to End Tax Deductions on Drug Promotion
- NYT Poll: Everyone Hates Drug Advertising
- Why Schering-Plough's Nasonex Bee Is to Blame for FDA's New Drug Ad Rules
- Insomnia and Antidepressant Sales Give Lie to DTC Myths
- PhRMA's New Drug Ad Rules Still Lack an Enforcement Mechanism
- AZ, Roche and Shire: U.S. DTC Is Awful -- Can We Have It in Europe Too?
- Millward Brown Launches Defense of Drug Ad Effectiveness