Is This a Scare Technique, or Good Pharma Advertising?


Uncoagulated blood.

How do you sell an anti-coagulant drug in a pandemic? If you are giant pharma such as Pfizer and Bristol Myers Squibb, you run a pair of radio and TV commercials putting a scare into listeners and viewers. Ads that tell you that if you have symptoms of shortness of breath, leg pain, or palpitations you need to run, not walk, to connect to your healthcare professional because as the tag line says there is “no time to wait.”

I’m not sure why these commercials, featuring a real cardiologist and a real ER doc bother me so much. I am a physician. I believe in early diagnosis. I even believe in disease screening, as those of you who are familiar with my involvement in PSA screening and prostate cancer know. But these scare tactics drive me up the wall, especially when the ads run back-to-back as they sometimes do.

The probable cause of my discomfort is that these ads, masquerading as a public service, are clever ways of pushing for use of Eliquis, an effective anticoagulant used in the treatment of pulmonary emboli, deep vein thrombosis, and atrial fibrillation. The drug isn’t mentioned in the two ads, and perhaps that’s what bugs me so much. I don’t love, but I have gotten used to, ads that tell us how wonderful our life with migraines, psoriasis, and rheumatoid arthritis can be with the proper (expensive) prescription medications. At least those are clear-cut advertisements. Nothing sneaky. It’s the non-mention of Eliquis in the two new ads that sets my teeth on edge.

Maybe I am being a pre-holiday, middle-COVID, Grinch. Maybe these spots are getting the right people to see their clinicians and they aren’t petrifying a lot of other viewers who are just having gas pains.  And if in so doing, the ads sell some Eliquis, so be it.

What do you think? Let me know.

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