Fun with poo

Synergy Pharmaceuticals recently had a shi… uh, terrible idea. And then they decided to run with it. They launched a keyboard app of poop emojis known as The Poop Troop. The app is designed to promote conversation on the topic of constipation, as if our lack of cartoon poo is why we haven’t discussed it until now. Yes, this article stinks but we’ll push through it together. “These emojis are not intended to serve as a diagnostic or a medical tool,” stated Kimberly D. Orleck, P.A. at Atlanta Gastroenterology Associates. “Gee, really, Kim?”, stated this InsightCity writer. The second my doctor calls me “Runny Ron” or “Mr. Smooth” (yes, they’ve named them) I’ll be looking for a new doctor. I know this strains our credibility, but you can’t make this crap up.

2. Easier to understand – Quantum physics or DTC pharma ads?

Side effects of reading this might include… What does over $5 billion in DTC ad spending get drug makers these day? Answer: Confused patients. InCrowd surveyed 319 US physicians to gauge their views on patient understanding of DTC ads. 65% of the surveyed MDs said their patients do not generally understand info given in pharmaceutical ads. Only a measly 13% of docs said “most of my patients can interpret/understand” these ads. Brand managers won’t be jumping for joy over these stats.  While one-third of physicians would like to ban the ads completely, the other two-thirds think the ads should be improved. InsightCity would like to heartily congratulate any company that keeps the list of disclaimers under one minute.

3. Is your heart healthy enough for texts?

Looking to save money on Viagra? (Don’t answer that.) A new commercial states people who text the code “VSAVE” to a Pfizer number will receive a 50% discount on a yearlong supply. Fierce reports that patients who agree to terms and conditions will receive an eCard that would be shown at a pharmacy to get the discount. Terms and conditions? Yes. Part of opting in is agreeing to receive around five sexts a month from Pfizer regarding deals, refill reminders and other program updates. It seems the best way to keep someone’s attention these days is through their phone and Pfizer plans to do just that. If your condition lasts longer than four hours, can you now just text “stop”?

2. Warning letters with holiday stamps

The FDA is full of holiday cheer and to spread the love they sent two very special letters to Sanofi and Celgene. But these weren’t your typical happy holiday cards, unless you consider warning letters for misleading TV ads festive. We don’t, in case you’re thinking of sending us a present. Among the major health risks cited are how Sanofi’s Toujeo ad has fast-paced visuals that distract the consumer and how Celgene’s Otezla ad turns up the volume of the brass instrumental section as the narrator begins speaking three separate times. It’s Santa’s naughty list for these two. The FDA’s Office of Prescription Drug Promotion wants these violations to cease, so it looks like the regulatory department will be working overtime during the holidays.

2. Can you hear me now? Good.

In accordance with a new policy released last Wednesday, the FDA has increased patient accessibility to hearing aids. The guidance, which takes effect immediately, removes the requirement of medical evaluation or waiver-signing before buying a hearing device. The agency also said they’ll consider creating a category for OTC hearing aids. So go ahead and prepare yourself now for some campy, elderly-consumer-focused commercials. The move was done in part to encourage industry innovation/competition to create cheaper hearing devices, which would also serve to increase access for the 30 million Americans who live with hearing loss. That’s something we can all get behind, right? Hear, hear!

5. The FDA hates cartoons

The FDA has proposed an experiment to measure whether the use of animation in DTC drug advertising has effects beyond just getting you to look at the TV. Specifically, how does the use of an animated character to represent the patient, condition, feeling, etc. affect the retention of important drug information such as benefits and side effects? The agency put the proposal out for comment last week and let’s just say that if the FDA is skeptical of the industry’s motives, the feeling appears mutual. Several comments expressed concern over such a specific experiment informing FDA guidance and policy. One comment posited that the research “may be unnecessary for the proper performance of the FDA’s functions.” “On the contrary,” began the FDA’s response. It seems they disagree.

4. _________ is up 20% year-to-date

What’s in the blank space, you ask? Not pharma sales, not R&D expense, but rather pharma industry spending on TV ads. This comes on the heels of 2015 where spending was up 20% over 2014. According to Morgan Stanley analyst Benjamin Swinburne, “We continue to see pharma spending as the fastest growing major ad vertical on TV.” There are two things to note from Swinburne’s analysis, the first is that digital spending seems to be moving back to TV and pharma is a major reason why. There is no value judgement here. However, more TV exposure might bring more attention to the pharma industry (and maybe drug prices). FYI, the average ad spend for the top 20 spending products = $155M per product in 2015.