Marketing headache

By Siouxsie Wiles 12/06/2011 8


Reading the July issue of North & South I came across a 4 page advertising feature called “Good Health Special Report”. It starts:

Taking time out and making your own health and wellbeing a priority isn’t just a nice idea – it’s a necessity. Our health report also brings you some of the latest developments and research into common conditions, life stage changes, new products and preventive measures.

The ‘report’ consists of three full page articles:
A Vision Decision – which suggests tips for good eye health, including eating well, keeping blood pressure and weight down and regular visits to an optician;
Change of Life – which discusses the menopause and hormone replacement therapy (HRT);
Head Attack – all about migraines.

Did you know that Elvis Presley was a migraine sufferer? Along with that little snippet, I also learned that there are medicines that can be taken in anticipation of a migraine, but that they are not recommended in all cases. Oh, and that migraine sufferers should “take an active role in dealing with the condition”, whatever that means.

What fascinated me about this rather long (and clearly expensive) ‘advertising feature’ was that nowhere could I see who or what was being advertised. No logo’s, nothing. How odd.

But wait! What is that on the next page?

PREVENT MIGRAINES BEFORE THEY START. ….Ask your doctor about TOPAMAX(R) for migraine prevention.

Funnily enough that advert does have a logo, that of Janssen a ‘leading research-based pharmaceutical company’ according to their website.

Coincidence? Or a case of manipulative marketing?* I’m not sure why this has made me so angry, but it has. I guess I feel like they are treating me like I’m stupid. But it must work on enough people or they wouldn’t pay for five pages instead of just one.

* I know, I know. By definition marketing is manipulative….


8 Responses to “Marketing headache”

  • So, ‘an active role in dealing with the condition’ = asking one’s GP for Topamax… clever marketing indeed.
    Incidentally, I see that last October, Clinvest (I’m assuming this is a pharmaceutical company running drug trials) was setting up a trial examining the efficacy of topamax as compared to another, existing drug for migraine prevention. Single-blinded, which immediately raises issues with how reliable the results might be.

  • I have a (as yet unresearched) hypothesis that the decrease in public interest and support of science might be correlated to the increase in marketing and advertising.
    My understanding is that support of science was strongest in the 50’s, which is about the same time as advertising started to develop its more manipulative techniques
    After all, marketing focuses on using (mainly) emotive appeals to get people to buy things, while science takes a rational approach.
    I can’t believe some of the things they get away with in advertising these days.

  • Treatment of migraine tends to be reactive, ie treat the condition once it happens. Simple (cheap!) analgesics and antiemetics are often very successful in treating occasional migraines.

    Very few people, relatively speaking, need prophylaxis and they tend to be those in whom the migraines are frequent and debilitating.

    Thanks to Pharmac, there are cheaper medicines for migraine prophylaxis than topiramate in New Zealand. There are even generics available that are cheaper than the original Topamax.

    Until reading this blog I thought that topiramate was only used as an anticonvulsant in epilepsy. I wasn’t aware that it could be used in migraine prophylaxis but rapid reading confirmed that it can (along with its cost). I suspect that many kiwi doctors would be in the same position.

    Up until now there hasn’t been a large market here for migraine prophylaxis.

    Call me cynical if you like, but I suspect that this advertising will create a demand for migraine prophylaxis that hasn’t previously been there. Result: many more sales for Janssen than would have resulted from advertising to the medical profession.

  • I may be incorrect, but are NZ and the USA the only countries where direct-to-consumer advertising of drugs/medicine is legal? (I may have dreamt this up). Eliminating this would probably prevent this sort of disease mongering/advertising from creating a demand that shouldn’t exist.

  • I have to say, having taken Topomax, that I would not have thought it was an ideal drug for direct marketing. You have to step up to the daily dose and it takes up to a month to start working. And the side effects are pretty awful (they start almost immediately): it makes you as dumb as a lawn chair (they don’t call it stupamax for nothing) and it ruins food and drink (especially carbonated drinks and coffee). I stopped taking it because I felt more debilitated (although in significantly less pain) on it than before. I can’t really see people whose migraines aren’t very extreme wanting to stick with this drug. And I can see many people complaining about it when it fails to meet the expectations that are set up by this sort of marketing.

  • Matt,

    It would be interesting to find out. I find the direct to consumer advertising quite irritating and consider it borderline immoral.

  • Matt,

    I believe that you are correct, but I’m not completely certain. They are the only two countries that I know of that allow direct to consumer marketing.