Have pharma promos gone too commercial?

Over the past few years, we've seen some drugmakers choose new executives from the ranks of consumer-products companies. Joe Jiminez, Novartis' new chief, says his experience hawking Heinz ketchup helps him manage more effectively in the pharma world. Pfizer CEO Jeff Kindler is famous for his status as a former McDonald's executive.

So if pharma's going to borrow talent from consumer goods, why not borrow consumer-goods marketing? A New York Times story takes a look at one current pharma campaign--ads and rebates pushing Dysport, the wrinkle-relaxer from Medicis--and asks experts that very question.

To compete with the well-entrenched wrinkle drug Botox, the Dysport campaign takes a satisfaction-guaranteed approach: If patients don't like their results from Dysport, then Medicis will foot some of the bill for a Botox treatment. "We are so confident that we are literally willing to bet our money that patients will love their Dysport treatment," CEO Jonah Shacknai told the Times.

Other examples: Sepracor's free trial of its sleeping drug Lunesta, Merck's free 30-day supply of the diabetes drug Januvia. And so on. In fact, there are so many free trials and discount offers, you'd have to have a coupon organizer to keep track of them all.

Some experts tell the Times that treating medicine as a consumer product "seems a little creepy." But there's no FDA rule against coupons or other offers. Just think of that staple of drug promotion, the free sample. Are rebates and money-off coupons really that different?

- read the NYT story