Lexapro's Marketing Plan Shows How Drug Maker Pushes New Drugs

The Senate just released 88 pages of a confidential 270+ page marketing plan by Forest Laboratories, created in 2004 and focused on how to get doctors to prescribe the antidepressant Lexapro over similar but cheaper alternatives such as Celexa. The New York Times notes that the line between marketing and education seems to be heavily blurred, which may not surprise you. There are, however, two interesting notes for consumers who may be taking Lexapro.

The first is that the FDA doesn’t require Lexapro’s makers to statistically back up their claim that Lexapro is more effective than Celexa, which is basically Lexapro’s parent. (Forest Laboratories changed the molecular structure of Celexa, which was about to lose its patent protection, in order to create Lexapro in 2002.) In fact, Forest has even used this near-interchangeability to its financial advantage:

The F.D.A. views the two medicines as so interchangeable that the agency recently approved Lexapro’s use in depressed adolescents based in part on the results of a study Forest conducted using Celexa.

The second is that sales of Lexapro are on the wane, and correspondingly Forest “has been recently raising the price.” But, “Many doctors say they believe that Lexapro is the best antidepressant, so they prescribe the drug despite its cost.”

“Document Details Plan to Promote Costly Drug” [New York Times]
(Photo: mandiberg)