Welcome to my blog, a place to explore and learn about the experience of running a psychiatric practice. I post about things that I find useful to know or think about. So, enjoy, and let me know what you think.

Sunday, December 9, 2012


What's up with the eyeballs in Abilify ads?  Like this one:

Are they supposed to be cute?

A pair of eyeballs following around someone taking an antipsychotic. Seriously?

Oh yeah! This isn't an ad for Abilify the antipsychotic. It's an ad for Abilify the antidepressant augmentation med.

And if you watched through the ad, did you notice that 40 of the 90 seconds are spent describing side effects? Okay, you probably didn't bother to count like I did, but you get the idea.

I do not like drug ads on TV. But why?

Is it because they're a blatant manipulation of lay people by Big Pharma? Well, there is that.

Dammit, if pharmaceutical companies are going to manipulate people, then by golly let those people be doctors so we can get free pens and clipboards out of it.

Did you know that the amount of money pharmaceutical companies spend on advertising is 19 times what they spend on research? Huffington Post Link

One figure I found (click here) is 4.8 Billion dollars spent annually on direct to consumer marketing. That doesn't even include pens.

Now, don't get me wrong. I don't hate pharmaceutical companies the way I hate insurance companies. After all, the meds we prescribe have to come from somewhere. And some of them actually work. You can't blame a trillion-dollar conglomerate for tryin' to make a buck. They have  products to offer that actually do some people some good. Unlike insurance companies, which offer a product designed to do as little as possible of the job it was purchased to do (i.e. reimburse).

Plus, drug companies will take you out to dinner every now and then. When was the last time United Healthcare bought you so much as a cookie?

I think it bothers me that the ads are misleading. Depression not improving? Here, this'll fix it.

In a recent study (2012), Fava, et al assessed the efficacy of low-dose aripiprazole added to antidepressant therapy (ADT) in 225 major depressive disorder (MDD) patients with inadequate response to prior ADT.They concluded that low-dose (2-5mg) aripiprazole was well-tolerated, but had only marginal efficacy in augmenting ADT.

The commercial never mentioned that. Nor did it state, or even imply, that abilify's original indication was for psychosis. It's as though, just when you thought antidepressants were inadequate to the task of treating depression, a magical pill appeared and saved everyone.

So they're lying. Or exaggerating. But is this really any worse than advertising candy bars, or laundry detergent, or tires?

I think there's a fine line between empowering people to be active participants in their health care, and convincing them they have greater expertise than they do, which is the real way drug ads mislead. You don't need to know much about candy bars to chose one. And maybe you should do a little research when you're purchasing new tires. But you don't need years of education and hands-on experience to make those decisions.

If I needed my car fixed, I wouldn't go to a mechanic and say, "I know what's wrong with my car and which components you need to fix it." And Google is not the great equalizer people would like it to be.

So watch out for those eyeballs.

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