Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Cue the lumbago

Television ads for anti-depressants are getting more depressing.

The advertisement for airipiprazole (Abilify) is a case in point. Not only is there a patient and a doctor in the animated creation, there is also a stand-in for depression.  Depression is a ovoid black, animated thing that can resemble a blob, or turn into a hole. 

The "patient" is a woman and depression is by her side throughout the commercial. She is taking notes as the "physician" describes possible side effects and counter-indications. Depression has its own clipboard and is also taking notes.

What does this mean?

Depression is a character and as real as the patient. Is depression taking notes so that it can defeat Abilify?

The cartoon woman and her family then go for a picnic and depression tags along like the family dog.  In fact, depression never leaves.  What does this say about your expectations? Aim low. Don't count on your depression actually lifting.

Same with a gout medication called Uloric (febuxostat). A guy is walking around a city carrying a huge beaker of green liquid that is supposed to represent uric acid. Gout is caused by the formation of uric acid crystals in joints. Our patient gets Uloric and the size of the beaker shrinks. 

But at the end of the ad, he still has to carry a small beaker of green liquid. In other words, this medication may improve the condition, but it will not cure it. 

Along the same lines is a medication for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD. The opening scene is of a man with COPD with an elephant sitting on his chest. A good metaphor, perhaps for chronic bronchitis or emphysema. Presumably the elephant is a computerized drop in.

The actor playing the patient actually says that there is no cure for COPD. He proceeds to play pool (why pool?) and the elephant remains in the same room. Spiriva (tiotropium bromide inhalation powder) may improve your symptoms, but you're stuck with the elephant, who at least is letting you stand up and walk around. 

In ads for heartburn medicines, the heartburn is neither a character nor does it linger. Does this mean that heartburn is "curable?" Sort of. It can be controlled. Same with ads for mucus dissolver, blood thinners, and anti-cholesterol drugs. 

Mucus, unwanted blood clots and artery-clogging cholesterol are all potentially chronic diseases,  but they have no cartoon characters.  A blood clot could be like a strawberry, cholesterol lends itself to an amorphous blob shape, and mucus suggests a green critter. 

Some of these cartoon diseases may spin off their own animated features. A woman pursued by a black blob, a coughing guy and his elephant sidekick. Cholesterol as a cat burglar. 

Weirder movies have been made. 

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