Commercial Break: Enbrel Probably Won’t Help You, Inject It Anyway   2 comments

Broadcast: 31 October 2012
Program: The Tonight Show with Jay Leno
Channel: NBC
Conglomerates: Comcast & General Electric

Advertiser: Enbrel
Owned By: Amgen & Pfizer
Pitch: Maybe clear your skin up a little with painful, dangerous injections.

The legal boundaries within which prescription drug ads must operate have imposed on the genre a certain repetitiveness.  First, you get actors to represent people suffering from whatever ailment this particular pharmaceutical concoction is supposed to allay.  Then, since you have to read aloud all those side effects, you show those same actors walking around a park, or working at a cool looking office, or hanging out with their friends and family.  That’s it, actors stating their problems and then side effects, call it the prescription drug two-step. 

The only two interesting variables in this relentless template are 1) just how much of the commercial is taken up by side effects and 2) the inherent absurdity of having the dire side effects being recited while super healthy actor people march around on screen.  This ad, for a skin treatment that you have to take with a fucking needle, scores high on both counts:

Enbrel may not work for everyone and may not clear you completely.  But for many it gets skin clear fast, and keeps it clear up to nine months. 

Clear Skin and High Failure Rates

Is this a spa?  A porn shoot?  The Olympus set in Clash of the Titans 5?

You may notice the small white text on the light blue background there saying “Your results may vary Nearly half of patients saw significant improvement”.  “Nearly half”, of course, is marketspeak for “most patients didn’t see significant improvement”.  After that, the friendly male narrator spends more than forty seconds of the one minute spot describing all the terrible things that might happen to you:

Because Enbrel etanercept suppresses your immune system, it may lower your ability to fight infections.  Serious, sometimes fatal events, including infections, tuberculosis, lymphoma, other cancers, and nervous system and blood disorders have occurred. 

So Enbrel can turn you into a cancer ridden lunger with messed up nerves and blood, and that’s before we get to your doctor, who they assume is remarkably incompetent:

Before starting Enbrel, your doctor should test you for tuberculosis and discuss whether you’ve been to a region where certain fungal infections are common.  Don’t start Enbrel if you have an infection like the flu. 

Um, since I can’t start Enbrel without a prescription, shouldn’t my doctor just not prescribe it if I’ve currently go the flu? 

Tell your doctor if you’re prone to infections, have cuts or sores, have had hepatitis B, have been treated for heart failure, or if while on Enbrel you experience persistent fever, bruising, bleeding or paleness. 

Again, shouldn’t my doctor already know if I’m “prone to infections”, “have had hepatitis B”, or “been treated for heart failure”?  But nevermind any of that, because this guy can go hiking now:

You Can't Climb Rocks Without Good Skin 

And this lady can shop for cute, authentic furnishings:

Knicknack Shops Are Rife With Fungal Infections 

And this woman can ride on a cool boat:

Boat Induced Heart Failure 

It’s while they’re experiencing all these memorable moments in life that the narration is going on about blood disorders, hepatitis and that doctor who probably shouldn’t have been given a prescription pad in the first place.  Nothing out of the ordinary for a prescription drug ad, of course, but it’s always fun to see a guy climbing rocks while the voiceover is warning you about tuberculosis, especially when the drug in question doesn’t even help half of the people who take it.

Posted November 5, 2012 by Charlie Sweatpants in Commercial Break

2 responses to “Commercial Break: Enbrel Probably Won’t Help You, Inject It Anyway

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  1. So I actually take this drug. I take it for rheumatoid arthritis and have been for a year and a half. Before I got sick I used to see commercials like this and wonder who in their right mind would take a drug like this? I mean the cure is obviously way worse than the disease… right? WRONG. I found out the hard way that this is not true. Before I started this class of drugs- anti-TNFs- (Humira was my first for a year) I went from normal to completely disabled in less than 3 months. I couldn’t dress, use the bathroom, brush my hair, or even roll on my side in bed. The pain is horrific and endless. I truly wanted to die- so for me it was a no brainer to choose this class of drugs in an attempt to get some relief. I was very lucky and had an excellent and rapid response. I do wish these commercials would show the real disease, but I guess if they show rheumatoid deformities or severe plaque psoriasis it may make people lose their lunch. If the author would like to try to understand maybe google images will help.

    • I’d never heard of plaque psoriasis before I saw the commercial, so I did Google it, and, yeah, you’re right, those aren’t the kind of images they’d ever put in a commercial. Glad to hear it’s working for you.

      Charlie Sweatpants

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