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Should sleeping pills be advertised so openly?

Written by Hunnybunny on 08.58

Every day you pick up a newspaper or turn on the TV, you cannot avoid seeing ads for a range of drugs including sleeping pills. It seems like the pharmaceutical industry still has money to burn even though we are going through a recession. What's going on? Well, it's all to do with building up and then maintaining the brand. Marketing has become increasingly scientific. Focus groups are brought together and polled on what features for a product are the most important, how much we would pay for it, what we think about this slogan for selling it, and so on. The intention is to design an advertising campaign that will tell us what we most want to know about a product, explain why it's great value for money, and so on, all in the most memorable of prose and, on TV, backed up by the latest music from a top singer or group. That way, when we do fall ill, we can walk in to see our physician and ask for the drug we want by name. Except, we are all likely to forget a product's name. So the marketers endlessly repeat it wherever we go to reinforce brand awareness. Like Pavlov's dog who was taught to react when a bell rang, we are taught to respond with the leading brand name whenever a product type is mentioned.

Is it like this everywhere? Well, no. In the majority of other countries around the world, manufacturers are not allowed to market drugs directly to consumers. All the promotional effort is focussed on the medical profession. The reason is simple. When there is a choice between several drugs as a treatment for a particular condition, only a doctor is able to say which is the best for a particular patient. There are always costs and benefits in every drug and people have different medical histories and needs. There is no one-size fits all treatment for every person. In the US, the FDA has a special division tasked to keep advertising reasonably fair and honest. That's why, when you have a forty second ad on TV, thirty seconds is a voice listing the adverse side effects. The FDA thinks you should know the problems with each drug so you can make an informed decision on which is the best. Except listing all these side effects is bad for business. People are put off. That's what makes the latest round of ads so interesting.

The manufacturers of ambien have been running a new series of ads talking about the problems of insomnia but not mentioning any drug by name. Because no drug is mentioned, there is no need to list side effects. Everything can remain very positive. At the end of the ads, you are referred to where you read all about the drug and are offered a free trial. The question we have to ask is simple. As a nation, we are increasingly dependent on ambien to get us to sleep and keep us sleeping through the night. Is this desirable? Should we rely on a drug to help us sleep or look for a better way of getting a good night's rest? The FDA is right. It's your choice.

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