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Pharmaceutical Junk

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Hideous

This, in my opinion, is the crowning glory of my drug company junk collection.  It's absolutely hideous, so bad in fact that it is wonderful.  Clarinex, as some may not know, is basically "son of Claritin." Claritin was a non-sedating anti-histamine which made a bus-load of money for the manufacturer.  But then the drug went generic, and eventually OTC, threatening to shut down the pipeline of cash coming from its sales.  So the company turned to the same trick done with Nexium, Lexapro, and a myriad of other drugs: they took only one stereoisomer (left or right-handed molecule) of an already successful drug and marketed it as a new drug.  The problem is that the already successful drug had to be made to seem bad enough to warrant the "new and improved" version.  Nexium was incredibly successful in this, while Clarinex was not nearly so successful.

Perhaps the marketing team is to blame.

Someone actually came up with the idea to make this hideous...thing.

"I have an idea!" a marketing team member said at a meeting.  "How about making a pen holder in the shape of the sun, with pens coming out of it as sunbeams!"

"Good idea," responded the person leading the meeting, "but it's just not enough.  What can we do to send home the message that says just how great Clarinex is for allergies?"

The room was silent for a few minutes until the face of the original marketer brightened.  "I know!  Nothing is better than breakfast.  How about putting breakfast at the ends of each pen?  It will make doctors feel real happy and the sun will make them warm inside, knowing that it was Clarinex which brought them joy."

"Clever idea," responded the team leader.  "We can put orange juice, coffee...."

"And oatmeal!" shouted another team member, caught up in the inspiring moment.  "There has to be oatmeal!"

"Good thought," encouraged the team leader.  "Oatmeal is healthy, and warms you from the inside."

"I don't like oatmeal," said the first member, pouting.  "My mom made me eat oatmeal growing up, while all the other kids were eating Lucky Charms."

"Hmm..." said the team leader.  "Yes, there will be some physicians who equate oatmeal with bad childhood memories."

"But we have got to have oatmeal!" insisted the person who had the idea.  "It is so warm and healthy!"

"Yes, I agree," said the team leader.  "So we need to have an alternative breakfast item for those who don't eat oatmeal.  What about pancakes?"

The group grinned with enthusiasm, but one member didn't join in on the smile-fest.  "I don't know," he said.  "I just don't eat that much in the mornings.  I'm sure a lot of docs are like me and just want to have their morning coffee and read the newspaper."

"Why not add a newspaper, then?" responded the team-leader.

High fives and fist bumps made their way around the room, as they were all caught up in the rapture of true inspiration.  They put together a pitch to go to the marketing executives, who were also caught up with rapture when seeing their wondrous creativity.  They then sent it out to drug reps who excitedly deposited them on the desks of doctors like me.

Doctors who broke out laughing at just how hideous this...thing looks.

And then the marketing team was fired.

Not to worry, though, there are plenty of political campaigns looking for this sort of genius.

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The Dog Pen

In looking through my vast collection of pens I came across a surprise:

It raised the obvious questions:

  • Why do I have a pen from Blueboy Chihuahuas?
  • Why would I have a pen from a company in Lowell MA?
  • Did a Chihuahua rep come around to my practice trying to get me to encourage my patients to get a chihuahua?
  • Does this Blueboy company sell chihuahuas, or do they just service them?
  • Is the boy really blue, and if so, did he get happier when he got a chihuahua?
  • Why would someone name a street "Weed Street," unless they were fans of Cheech and Chong or lived in California (or Amsterdam)?

To answer these baffling questions I did what every red-blooded American (and those with other colors of blood...and non-Americans) would do: I googled it.  Here's what I found:

There is, in fact a store that sells chihuahuas in Lowell, MA, and their web page (which is purple, not blue) gives the following information:

  • They breed chihuahuas
  • They don't breed for demand, but try to place them in good homes (presumably ones with lots of blue things, although the color of the web page has me wondering)
  • They don't ship the puppies, meaning you can't get an overnight Fedex or UPS chihuahua.  I would think that the practice of shipping chihuahuas would be much more tempting than great dane or german shepherd shipping.  This is just guesswork on my part, though.
  • There is absolutely no explanation of the Blueboy name, nor is there reference to any form of hemp-related substance.
  • They are active in the animal rescue movement, which is a very good thing.
  • They don't discuss whether or not they rescue people from small dogs, as I have been personally persecuted my several of them in my life and would have greatly appreciated rescue.
  • They have an advertisement for GW Little, which has the following items for sale:

Glasses (although these look more like goggles to me)

A sombrero (the dog is clearly thrilled)

A hoodie (with a shark on it)

Blue bunny pajamas

A turkey costume (no comment can do it justice)

The ever watchful Spider-Dog

This raises the issue of animals needing rescue, and why a company (although their lack of reference to blueness makes me wonder if it's some sort of front) who purports to support animal rescue would send its readers to a Web site devoted to animal humiliation.

So the mystery of the dog pen remains.  I do have to say that it writes quite well, and has drawn international attention to the blueish dog vendor on a street with a questionable name.  I guess it's done it's job.

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More Drug Pens: Misguided Marketing Decisions

I've got a bunch of pen pics taking up my memory, so I'm going to do my second post spawned by my discovery of a motherlode of drug pens in my desk.  Today's menagerie will feature some questionable decisions by the marketing departments.  It's bad enough to have doctors hate you (and throw things at you), or have the public feel that you are a cause of rising health care costs; some drug reps had an additional source of angst: the marketing departments for their companies.

Axid, for instance, was in forth place behind Zantac, Tagamet, and Pepcid.  So what did  the marketing department come up with to spur slumping sales?  Make a children's suspension of the drug and market it using hideous creatures.

(I have blurred this image to not scare any small children who may come across this inadvertently)

It's such a brilliant concept that it was, and continues to be embraced by the makers of Mucinex, a popular expectorant which commonly advertises on television.

This advertising campaign was undoubtedly devised by child psychologists desperate for business, who now have a glut of children waking up at night screaming, "Get that mucous guy out of my chest!  I don't want him living with his ugly wife inside of me, mommy!"  As an adult, this advertising makes me want to go out and buy a walnut sized pill to make that mucous guy sorry he ever messed with me.

Even a local medical equipment company took advantage of the marketing genius of "Mr. Mucus."

This effort did not go unnoticed by another local equipment company who, not wanting to touch the part of us charmed by grotesque mucous creatures, decided that nothing says "medical equipment" like a patriotic pen.

 This pen is adorned with the signature of none other than John Hancock (I think it's a genuine signature, too).

By using this pen, I am declaring my independence from expensive durable medical equipment.  It brings a tear to my eye and makes me want to sing "Proud to be an American" at the top of my lungs.

Some pens aren't blessed with hideous creatures or signatures of historical luminaries; they are just ugly.  I am not sure who in marketing felt, for example that I would find this pen, with it's Nerf ball handle and gaudy decoration, would make me more likely to prescribe the drug.

Or a hideous purple pen (although that circle thingy did almost suck me in).

Or another hideous purple pen (without the circle thingy, but with line thingys on the rubber thingy).

Or yet one more maybe not quite hideous purple pen, but was so cheap that the thingy that keeps it in your pocket broke off.

And finally, there's the oldest trick in the book:

Can anyone honestly resist it when they put purple and teal together?  I know I was writing...uh...Tektruna for weeks after getting this gorgeous pen.

That's it for now, I've got to run.  I think "Mr. Mucous" is coming back and I've got to take a pill the size of Delaware to put him in his place.  If I die in the process, be comforted by the fact that I took the whole Mucous clan to the grave with me.

Hey, maybe that's a good idea for a marketing campaign....

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Pharmaceutical Junk

I cleaned out a drawer in my desk today.  There were a lot of pens, many of which had drug company logos attached to them.  As I looked over this menagerie, I was mildly awed and moderately amused by the variations on a pretty mundane medium.  I ended up taking a bunch of pictures, and hope to share them over time, giving my take on what makes them, uh, special in their own way. The subject is made more interesting by the fact that we no longer get these because of the incredible influence they had on doctors' prescribing habits.  My wife had to physically restrain me to keep me from calling patients insisting that Viagra was right for them.

So let's start with a Caduet pen.

Caduet was the genius of Pfizer pharmaceuticals, mixing two very popular drugs and was the first of many drugs to use the word "duet" in its name.  It combines the cholesterol drug Lipitor with the blood pressure drug Norvasc, serving as kind of anti french fry.  This pen is very big and fat, and is made out of metal.  This makes it heavy, and while not ideal for the front shirt pocket (and a little embarrassing if put in the pants pocket), it is very effective when used in hand-to-hand combat.

I got this at a booth at the annual conference for the American College of Physicians.  They were not only offering this pen/weapon as a gift, they offered to put my name on it for free!

I didn't give them my real name.  I got a lot of funny looks at the booth, but nobody challenges me in hand-to-hand combat any more.

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