Skip to main content.

New lows reached with drug ads

New lows reached with drug ads

Picture of Martha Rosenberg
Direct to consumer drug ads become more aggressive
"My number two does not look like a number two. I don't know what to call it. Is there a number three?" So begins an ad in an aggressive AbbVie campaign to sell the disease of exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI) in order to sell AbbVie's drug for it. EPI is characterized by frequent diarrhea, gas, bloating and stomach pain says the campaign whose pay off line is "Don't Keep a Lid on It."  Creon, AbbVie's drug to treat  the hitherto almost unknown disease of EPI is priced at over $500 a prescription.
"Two-thirds of patients (66 percent) have never even heard of EPI and even more (78 percent) are not aware of the symptoms," says an AbbVie press release to create "awareness" among patients and doctors. Search results for EPI bring you to AbbVie's "Identify EPI" sites replete with quizzes and videos of people Just Like You. Even if you have never heard of the disease or don't have all of its symptoms, you are a candidate for our expensive drugs says the shameless campaign.
Another drug in AbbVie's fecal franchise is Humira, approved to treat moderate to severely active Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Despite Humira's links to lymphoma and other malignancies, some fatal, infections including Legionella and Listeria, worsening and new onset congestive heart failure and fatal reactivation of hepatitis B virus, it has been the U.S.'s top selling drug. Who says advertising doesn't work? Cynics might even ask if AbbVie makes drugs for the side effects of Humira.
Earlier this year, Humira ads were so over the top, even those in its targeted demographic, those with inflammatory bowel diseases, were offended. Commenting on the TV ads which show a woman grimacing while she holds her stomach and a father wearing a pained expression as he heads to the bathroom, one person wrote, “Speaking as one who suffers from IBS...We don't need insulting reminders in the name of selling the latest drug.” Others called the Humira ads “insulting,” “depressing” and “deplorable.” 
"'I thought I was managing my moderate to severe Crohn’s disease. Then I realized something was missing—me. I realized my symptoms were keeping me from being there. So I talked to my doctor,'" the ads say according to FiercePharma. "The music tempo shifts to upbeat and he is shown picking up his daughter from school, taking her for ice cream and generally enjoying life with her, as the Humira risk and benefit voiceover runs."
To sell exocrine pancreatic insufficiency AbbVie has given it the snappy initials EPI––a contrivance which has also helped sell the conditions of ED (erectile dysfunction), Low T (low testosterone), SAD (season affective disorder) and HSDD (hypoactive sexual desire disorder) and the drugs to treat them. (Despite the catchy HSDD, initials for a "disease" characterized by women not wanting enough sex, the so called "Pink Viagra" is not selling.)
Selling obscure diseases to sell obscenely priced drugs is unethical for two reasons. It doesn't just raise everyone's health care costs and raise their taxes through government programs like Medicare, Medicare, the VA and Tricare which often pay the freight. It makes a mockery of the entire U.S. health care system by aggressively seeking people who are not sick to "treat" while ignoring millions who really are sick but for whom there is no profit in treating.



Picture of

Hi Martha -I'm in Perth Western Australia, & have worked as a Carer in a community facility for the past 13 years & have known one of our residents for that length of time.

Just recently,unexpectedly, he died. He was on Prolia.

During his time on Prolia he suffered from "severe itching" mainly of his lower legs, feet, heels, toes, hands ,fingers sometimes elbows.We battled daily with cortisone creams etc to heal his skin then miraculously we would achieve it But only for a day or two & then ?!"bang"!?* his skin would break down again .We have been on this "merry-go-round " for roughly 2 yrs. I had my suspiscions that it was Prolia related. Some months back he was found unconscious-"suspected" fit" for which no known cause could be ascertained despite all the tests & hospitalisation & specialists appointments that followed.

He became due for another 6 mth injection of Prolia & I begged for him not to be given it as I had a "sixth-sense" that he may not survive another "fit". I was threatened with a "written warning" , the injection went ahead and within weeks I received a phone call to tell me he had suddenly passed in another "suspected fit".

I am so angry & so very sad at this unnecessary death. And that the Medical Profession were so cock sure that it had nothing to do with Prolia & were not prepared to take heed nor take action.And what now -they've probably forgotten all about him - haven't bothered to look into his case - & have just moved forward with a shrug of the shoulders.

Leave A Comment


The pandemic is far from over but crucial COVID-19 protections and benefits are gone. In our next webinar, we'll explore the end of renter protections, unemployment benefits and other emergency relief, and what it means for the nation’s pandemic recovery and the health and well-being of low-income people and their communities. Glean story ideas and crucial context. Sign-up here!

Are you passionate about helping journalists understand and illuminate the social factors that contribute to health and health disparities at a time when COVID-19 has highlighted the costs of such inequities? Looking to play a big role in shaping journalism today in the United States?  Apply now for one of our positions. 


Follow Us



CHJ Icon