Thursday, September 25, 2003

Do You Know about the Purple Pill?

Neither do I.  But I sure hear about it on the radio.  The latest commercials feature someone who interrupts the chatter of a cocktail party or similar event with the question: “Do you know about the purple pill?” The conversation thuds to a stop, as though people are looking at the guy, wondering “Who the fuck is this idiot?”, and then gradually comes back to normal.

In comparison, their previous radio commercial pretended to interview people on the street, all of whom just glowed about how their lives had changed since they found the purple pill.  With both commercials, listeners are then directed to ask their doctors if the purple pill is right for them.

Note that at no time do they offer one whit of information as to what the “purple pill” (brand name: Nexium, chemical name: esomeprazole magnesium) is for.  Depression?  HIV?  Weight loss?  Birth control?  Diabetes?  Puts hyperactive kids into a comatose state?

So I took the bait, and switched.  I asked my doctor if he gets a lot of people asking about the “purple pill”.  He told me yes, and he really dislikes it.  (He doesn’t hate the pill, he hates the marketing message: ask your doctor if random drugs are what you need, whether you even have a problem or not.)

Not that this marketing misbehavior is limited to the marketers of Nexium).  There was a big flak a few years ago with HIV medications which showed the people allegedly taking them doing things like climbing mountains, implying that result for taking their drugs, when more likely would be simply being able to get out of bed and maybe work again.  Since then, I saw an ad for a drug where the ad was a rose in a pair of hands (echoing some Buddhist imagery, I believe), the name of the drug, and the direction to ask your doctor.  By the ad’s placement in a gay bar, I presume it was an HIV medication, but there was no indication of that on the ad itself.

On the side, while discussing people panicking about mystery diseases, I do recommend the comic book (formerly a comic strip, but editorial hassles got too much for the artist) “Liberty Meadows” by Frank Cho.  Among the cast of characters is Leslie, the hypochondriac bullfrog, who periodically goes to the doctor/vet complaining of a host of imagined ailments.  My favorite strip was when he was asked what he was suffering from, and Leslie (who is male) replied, “ovarian cyst.”

Updated on September 13, 2010

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