A stray JAMA crossed my desk late this afternoon. In an idle moment, I picked it up and opened it. I was confronted with a slick, two-page drug ad. My eye was drawn to the right hand page, where enormous white letters on a lavender background asked:
On the left page was a colorful drawing, a cartoon, of two people in a car. A smiling, placid man is driving. In the passenger seat, wild eyes bulging, teeth clenched, mouth downturned, hands upraised to cheeks a la Munch's "The Scream," is a woman out of whose head is arising a tornado-like representation of anxiety, full of icons of distress: a crashing plane, a doctor's exam room door, traffic jams, and, at the very top, a credit card with shark teeth and a fin, and a horrified looking piggy bank fleeing three running coins.
"Anxiety," reads the ad, "Can Take A Backseat -- With NIRAVAM (tm)"
Niravam, eh ? Let's play a little pharmaceutical scrabble, shall we ?
Niravam.... Nirvama.... Nirvana.... Bingo ! Bliss !
Turns out "Niravam" is a rapid-dissolving version of alprazolam, the highly addictive and abusable benzodiazepine tranquilizer also known as Xanax. The ad cites a "study" (N=59, data on file with the company) that purports to show that patients like getting at their alprazolam quickly, conveniently and discretely. No more swallowing their Xanax or (god forbid) their generic alprazolam with a glass of water by God ! Just pop a Niravam (TM) under the tongue and its O to bliss in 10 minutes flat !
What's next, a snortable or smokable version ?
That's pharma-scientific rigor for you, right up there with intelligent design. As in:
Wasn't it intelligent of us to re-design the vehicle of this old, generic drug so we can reap fresh, new profits by dint of our slick, new marketing gimmicks !
This drug ad manages to insult physicians, people afflicted with anxiety disorders, women and a major world-wide religion in one bold, asinine gesture.
Is there small print ? You betcha. Reams of it.
Certain adverse clinical events are a direct consequence of physical dependence to alprazolam. These include a spectrum of withdrawal symptoms, the most important being seizure.
Adverse clinical event. Spectrum of symptoms.
Oh, yeah. SEIZURES !!!!
Gotta lovethe Poets of Big Pharma. They have such a way with words.