The seventh in an important series of Consumer Reports drug AdWatch videos is now available online.
It's on Abilify, a Bristol-Myers Squibb drug originally approved for treating schizophrenia and then for bipolar disorder and then as an adjunct depression treatment.
Consumer Reports states:
We totally get why Bristol-Myers Squibb is doing this. There are, after all, only so many people in the world who have schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. Depression, on the other hand, is a veritable cash cow among mental-health conditions. One in seven people will experience a depressive episode at some point in their lives. If you want to sell upwards of $2 billion a year of a drug, that's the kind of market you need. And, in Abilify's defense, the use of antipsychotics along with antidepressants in hard-to-treat cases of depression isn't new. Psychiatrists have long prescribed the drugs off-label for that purpose, and there's one drug on the market, Symbyax, that combines olanzapine with the antidepressant fluoxetine (Prozac and generic). But because of their harsher side effects, antipsychotics are usually considered an option of last resort for depression, to be tried only after exhausting other options such as a different antidepressant, a different dose of the same antidepressant, or a combination of two antidepressants together. Not surprisingly, the Abilify ad doesn't get into that. Quite the contrary, it seems to suggest that if the first antidepressant you try isn't enough, you can, and should, jump right onto Abilify as an add-on.
If this business of marketing an extremely powerful psychiatric drug to the public on TV and in popular magazines like People seems insidious to you, well, us too. But there could be more to come. Perhaps inspired by Abilify's unbelievable success, the competing (and seriously side-effect plagued) drug quetiapine (Seroquel) is now seeking approval as a depression add-on. What a very depressing battle of the ads that could be.