On 9 November, I challenged the blog-o-sphere to associate a pharmacetical's drug marketing image to the some of each drugs' side effects. Although I had over 2063 visits to the blog since that posting, 20 brave souls forwarded their answers (1%). You, my friends, are the elite, the talented, the brave.
Now before I divulge the answers, why did I do this? Well, one reason was because it is fun to try new things. Two, I wanted to see how well Big Pharma is getting their information to the general public about all of the side effects of the drugs. And three, I had an interest in seeing how well the images developed by pharmaceutical companies stick with their viewers.
Unfortunately, the number of respondents was ridiculously low. But being of scientific mind, we must ask ourselves, why? Was it because the images were not well known? Or was it because the stupid physician made a bad test that was just too difficult?
Well, it was probably both. I tested the question on our staff in the local catheterization lab many had no clue what the heck a beaver had to do with a drug. Many of them had never seen the little "pipe man" before. Likewise, many had never heard of drugs causing those side effects. (What, you mean they couldn't cover everything in a 30-seconds commercial?)
But of the low number of respondents, we had a fairly bright crew: 50% of them got the correct answer, "C." Now, seeing as this was an "official, accredited" survey (I made it, so I can call it whatever I want), it is now OBVIOUS that a remarkably HIGH number of people remembered these drugs and (oh, my gosh!) that these ad images clearly work 50 percent of the time! Awesome! But then, many of the people answering this question might be in the pharmaceutical industry or physicians themselves. (Oh, well, they WORK, remember?)
Shhhhh. Now what we DON'T want spread about is that 50% of the time, people have NO CLUE what these drugs really COULD do to them. Half the patients. As studied by the World's Most Accurate Survey (WMAS).
Perhaps the pharmaceutical companies will now reference this blog's WMAS in their next advertisements! Now they have additional data justifying the benefits of advertising like this to the consumer! (I mean, look at what they've LEARNED!) 50% more of them know their drug's name! 50% ALSO know those drug's side effects! Damn. What a GREAT thing! Patients the world over will benefit, thanks to these clever ads.
But then we look at the costs of these drugs (Prices courtesy Costco.com - quantity 30 tabs), we see:
A) Nasonex: elevated intraocular pressure, wheezing, hypersentivity - $144.38 (pro-rated to 30/pkg)
B) Lipitor: chest pain, arthritis, liver failure - $79.12
C) Rozerem: decreased testosterone levels and/or elevated prolactin levels - $106.30
D) Vesicare: prolonged QT interval, dry mouth, constipation - $122.64
e) Lunesta: dysgeusia (bad taste in the mouth), dry mouth - #125.75
Said another way, these pills go for anywhere between $2.64 - $4.19 per pill. More than a cup of coffee at Starbucks per pill, or a Grande Mocha for that matter. Compare that to 13 cents per pill for generics ($4 divided by 30 pills) at Walmart.
How much of these high drug costs come from advertising? Plenty.
Here's what a 30-second spot TV ad costs in 2006-2007 primetime season: between $45,000 and $394,000! Yep, as much as over a THIRD OF A MILLION DOLLARS for a 30-second TV ad at primetime (The super bowl is more than $1 million dollars per 30 seconds - remember the Flomax commercial?). Recall that I recently saw 12 drug commercials during one evening news broadcast. Taking a conservative number above ($150,000), the single news advertisements added $1,800,000 of revenue to the broadcast network from the pharmaceutical companies. And who do you think is paying the pharmaceutical companies' bills?
Yep, you. And me.
Update 16 Nov 06 15:42 CST: Updated for 2006-2007 ad cost information.