Effexor: The Marketing You Deserve!

Many people are prescribed antidepressant drugs they do not need. When this happens their mental balance may be thrown off and it can and has ruined many lives just like illegal drugs have.

Effexor is an antidepressant drug created by Wyeth Pharmaceuticals. I want to show you their product through the eyes of a marketer and let you decide on how pure their intentions are.

"The most startling fact about 2002 is that the combined profits for the ten drug companies in the Fortune 500 ($35.9 billion) were more than the profits for all the other 490 businesses put together ($33.7 billion)."

- Marcia Angell

 

How Wyeth Pharmaceuticals Markets Effexor XR

If you search Google for something like norepinephrine (Google Search: norepinephrine) you will see a Google AdWords ad promoting Effexor.

Their Google AdWords ad:

Notice that domain name. It is "The Change You Deserve." That sounds like good marketing. Once we go to their page we see that they talk about a couple of the common reasons their drug would be prescribed. They then throw out this paragraph.

EFFEXOR XR is known as an SNRI (serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor) and is believed to help treat depression and the associated symptoms of anxiety by affecting the level of two chemicals in the brain—serotonin and norepinephrine. These two chemicals are thought to play a key role in depression and the associated symptoms of anxiety. Correcting the imbalance of these two chemicals may help relieve depression symptoms and the associated symptoms of anxiety—which can be a positive step toward getting your life back.

In that paragraph the words serotonin and norepinephrine are green to draw attention to them. Once you scroll over those words they bring up yellow overlib boxes stating the same thing they say about either of the neurotransmitters in their glossary.

  • Serotonin: A chemical in the brain that is thought to be linked to depression.
  • Norepinephrine: A chemical in the brain that is thought to be linked to depression.

Notice they fail to give any legitimate specific information about either neurotransmitter or how exactly they tie in with depression. They then proceed with a bunch more information which leads to "Ask your doctor if EFFEXOR XR is right for you. Ask your doctor for additional information about EFFEXOR XR." The goal here is to have people walk to the doctor thinking they NEED this drug.

<sidebar> If your problems do not relate to your serotonin or norepinephrine levels, or if your levels are already above the normal range, then what impact would a drug that boosts those levels have?</sidebar>

Is Effexor XR Marketed Ethically?

"I took Effexor for a short period of time about 2 years ago. I was having problems with panic attacks and depression.
Within a very short period of time, I had quite severe problems.
I felt like I was in a vacuum - very detached. It was as though I wasn't really there. It was a very strange feeling, however, it became much worse and I became very paranoid on it as well. I ended up visiting the emergency department of my local hospital and they told me that I was having a very unusual reaction to this drug. I have been off it ever since."

- Ciante

You can say a person gets what they deserve if they take things that alter their neurochemistry without extensive research first. I am not going to call Effexor an unethically marketed drug for the above statements. That all might just be good marketing.

I will say that the person who made the following portion of their site is questionable in my opinion. It is a two question quiz which seems as though it is an honest assessment of your depressive condition. Upon further review it becomes a bit more questionable. (please note: they recently updated this section. this information was 100% accurate as of 15 April 2004.)

Quiz: Are Symptoms of Depression Interfering With Your Life?

Question 1: "Over the past couple of weeks, have you experienced any of the following symptoms on a regular basis?"

They list 11 options. 10 of them are common side effects of depression and the 11th is "No symptoms." For the quiz to work you must chose at least one of these. I chose "No symptoms."

Question 2: "Keeping in mind the symptoms you may be experiencing, choose the number that best represents how you've felt over the past couple of weeks."

This is a 1 - 10 scale, going from blue to yellow to green. Oddly enough this is a green which is similar to the other greens throughout the website, reinforcing a subconscious association of happiness with Effexor.

1 Blue (The worst I ever felt)
1 - 4 Blue

5 - 7 Yellow
8 - 10 Green
10 Green (The best I ever felt)

Here is the cool part. Based on the color charts one would presume that yellow would be normal. So a normal person would probably score somewhere in the yellow. If you score anything less than an 9 on this exam -even if you have 0 depressive symptoms- then you get the following response:

Based on your answers it seems there may be room for improvement. If so, maybe it's time to talk to your doctor and ask about EFFEXOR XR, a treatment option that may help you get back to your life again—a life virtually free of the symptoms of depression.

If you do score an 9 or 10 you get the following response

You indicated that you're feeling the best you've ever felt—or close to it. That's great. You may want to check back periodically to see how your symptoms change from day to day. If you reach a point at which you see room for improvement in your symptoms, you may want to talk to your doctor and ask about EFFEXOR XR, a treatment option that may help you get back to your life again—a life virtually free of the symptoms of depression.

There is something called "TRUTH IN ADVERTISING." I do not think that ad represented it in any way. Perhaps that is why they recently redid their marketing.

"Two or three times of missing doses taught me a harsh lesson that Effexor is NOT a drug to be trifled with. The worst thing is that my emotions go absolutely haywire. I am not in control of anything that I feel or how I react. Physiologically, my body gets flu-like symptoms (aches, tingling, etc.) and neurologically, it's like an acid trip gone terribly wrong: hallucinations both aural and visual, weird colors and distortions coming and going and the disquieting sensation of voices whispering nonsensically in my ears. "

- Ann

On the first question they just list depressive side effects versus making you fill out the questions. I am betting that collecting this data became unnecessary since it likely had no effect on the results. They also changed the numbers required for the different responses. Below is how their current quiz works (as of 20 June 2004).

Now 5 or below:

Based on your answers it seems there may be room for improvement. If so, maybe it's time to talk to your doctor and ask about EFFEXOR XR, a treatment option that may help you get back to your life again—a life virtually free of the symptoms of depression.

This still seems a bit sketchy to me for two reasons:

  1. 5 is in the normal range. On a scale of 1-10 5 & 6 are the middle numbers and are where most people should fall. Most people do not need to be prescribed antidepressants all the time throughout their lives.
  2. On the basis that you are looking into cures for depression or are researching the topic there is a fairly good chance you will feel at or below average at that point in time. Most people do not search for artificial cures for depression when they feel their best.

Now 6 - 10

You indicated that you're feeling well. That's good.

You may want to check back periodically to see how your symptoms change from day to day. If you reach a point at which you see room for improvement in your symptoms, you may want to talk to your doctor and ask about EFFEXOR XR, a treatment option that may help you get back to your life again—a life virtually free of the symptoms of depression.

They do have a disclaimer on the results page:

Please Note: This self-quiz is not a formal diagnostic tool. It is meant to help identify symptoms of depression. If you experience symptoms of depression, see your health care professional. Only a health care professional can actually diagnose depression.

Though I bet not many people read it, and I doubt it hurts sales.

Facts about Depression:

  • Depression is a part of life. Often we are depressed because we are only unhappy with our environment or current condition.
  • Many people who do not require them are hurt by prescription antidepressants. Changing your neurochemistry changes who you are and how you act. Sometimes not for the better. Many marriages break (read this or that) and many people are thought to have committed suicide (read this or that) because of the effects of some antidepressant drugs.
  • The United States is an extremely over medicated country. SSRIs makes billions of Dollars of profit selling drugs people may or may not need.

Depression & Drug Resources:

Tryptophan Becoming Illegal:

  • The FDA Ban of L-Tryptophan: Politics, Profits and Prozac - article talks about how the natural antidepressant L-Trytophan (which upwards of 15 million Americans were taking) was made illegal around the same time that Prozac was launched as a wonder drug of the future. Now companies producing SSRI antidepressant drugs are bringing in over $6,000,000,000 per year.
  • FDA/ CFSAN Information Paper on L-tryptophan and 5-hydroxy-L-tryptophan - Official FDA page which shows that they still add L-Tryptophan to baby food. "At the present time, an import alert remains in force which limits the importation of L-tryptophan into the United States, except if it is intended for an exempted use. FDA has provided for the use of manufactured L-tryptophan for special dietary purposes. Manufactured L-tryptophan is a lawful and essential component of foods, such as infant formulas, enteral products and approved parenteral drug products..."

Antidepressants Linked to Suicide?

  • FDA Issues Warning on Antidepressants - "The FDA is issuing a warning about the possibility of worsening depression or suicidal thoughts in people, particularly children, who take any of 10 popular antidepressants, especially at the beginning of treatment or when the doses are increased or decreased."

Antidepressant Side Effects & Withdrawl Problems

Dishonesty & Big Drug Companies

Illegal Drug Pushing (via Kickbacks, Bribes & Off Label Marketing)

Fines received by the biggest & baddest pharma corps for doing shady things like off-label marketing of their drugs, cheating medicade, bribes & offering doctors kickbacks to promote their products

Some of these companies hire guest spokesmen to shill, hide unfavorable studies, and do just about every other dirty trick in the book.

Depression & Drug Feedback

  • Depression Blog Read or write personal feedback on the effects of antidepressant drugs.

Disclaimer: like the Effexor quizes cited above, this website is not a formal diagnostic tool. If you experience symptoms of depression, see your health care professional. Only a health care professional can actually diagnose depression.

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