Our sister publication Consumer Reports Health has posted a new video in their AdWatch series, which examines direct-to-consumer pharmaceutical advertising. This time they’re examining some “stealth” advertising for the quit-smoking drug Chantix.
CRH says that Chantix is an effective drug — but its commercials never mention its name. Why not? Well, no one knows — but what we do know is that if you mention the drug you have to mention the side effects — and the side effects of Chantix are pretty serious.
Last year, the drug’s label was updated to include a warning about potential psychiatric effects of the drug which include “changes in behavior, agitation, depressed mood, suicidal ideation and attempted and completed suicide”— and CRH says that the FAA has actually banned pilots from taking the drug because of the severity of these potential side effects.
So if you see an advertisement that looks like a PSA, stop and think.
When you see an ad or Web site with that PSA-like tone, listen or look to see who’s sponsoring it. If it’s a drug company, and you decide to visit the site, realize that the information, however useful, is there to help promote a drug. And be wary of the interactive options that these sites offer. For example, a Share Your Story section on the FibroCenter site requires you to sign a release basically allowing Pfizer to change your whole story to make it more “commercially viable.” So much for an authentic online community.
As far as Chantix goes, about a year ago, New York Magazine had an interesting first person account from someone who had a bad experience with the drug.
The most unsettling thing about sleeping on Chantix is that I never felt like I was truly asleep. Some part of me remained on guard. It was more like lucid dreaming, what I thought it might feel like to be hypnotized. And it didn’t entirely go away come morning. As I showered, shaved, and scrambled into clothes, I tried to shake a weird, paranoid sense that I’d just been psychically raped by a household appliance.
Mental air conditioner rape aside… it did help him quit smoking, before he started hallucinating and smashed up his entire apartment. Chantix isn’t for everyone, it seems.
Pfizer and Chantix: Stealth advertising at its finest [Consumer Reports Health]