Friday, June 18, 2010

(In)direct to consumer advertising?

I am sure you have heard of "direct to consumer advertising" -- the marketing of prescription drugs directly to consumers (on TV, radio, printed media and the internet, etc) even though the products can only be obtained by prescription. But how about "indirect advertising"? And how about promotion of a product which has not even been approved by the FDA yet?

Pharmalot is reporting that for the past month, The Discovery Channel has been running on its web site a four-part series called ‘Understanding Female Sexual Desire,’ the sponsor of which just happens to be Boehringer Ingelheim, which is trying to convince the FDA to approve a pill to treat a disorder related to female sexual desire it calls female sexual dysfunction. The program is careful to not mention any drugs or to suggest that the problem should be treated with drugs, particularly since there is no drug approved to treat the condition, but it seems to be designed to suggest that there is a need for such a drug. And since the sponsor of the program happens to be the company trying to get such a drug approved by the FDA.... well, you can draw your own conclusions.

Maybe it is a great company, seeking to help a great deal of women by providing a product that they truly need ... Or maybe not....

There is an ongoing debate as to whether the so-called dysfunction is really a medical condition/disorder or something the pharmaceutical industry came up with in order to convince women to buy a product they don't need.

In fact, there is a new documentary in limited release around the country called Orgasm, Inc. (go here for more information, including screening schedules) that apparently argues that a pharmaceutical company, along with a cadre of other medical companies, are trying to take advantage of women (and potentially endanger their health) in pursuit of billion dollar profits. Here are two trailers for the movie:



UPDATE: Two days before of the controversial FDA advisory committee meeting to discuss what is now being referred to as the "female Viagra pill", a team of agency reviewers found the Boehringer Ingelheim pill, which was tested to treat Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder, failed to meet agreed-upon criteria to establish effectiveness in two company studies. According to Pharmalot, there was no statistically significant improvement on the co-primary endpoint of sexual desire, although the pill did show a statistical difference in generating sexually satisfying experiences when compared to a placebo (read the report here). The FDA meeting is TODAY (Friday June 18). I will continue to update this post with more reports as I see them....

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