In attending the MM&M Awards dinner recently, I was asked to present an award for the best unbranded TV ad. Eli Lilly was the winner. Their TV commercial on depression—done in black and white—clearly showed the conditions of a patient who is clinically depressed and badly in need of treatment. There was no mention of a product, but anyone watching this ad became instantly more aware of the symptoms and signs of an underdiagnosed, treatable disease. This is a public service.
This ad won Lilly an award, but more than that, it demonstrated an approach to a disease that is laudable. The company has received a lot of negative press recently because of its famous product Prozac, despite the fact that it has improved and saved countless lives. Its reputation has been tarnished by a rare association with disinhibition, and occasionally violence or even suicide.
Now that Prozac has a generic alternative, Eli Lilly's new drug for depression, Cymbalta, is a combination serotonin reuptake inhibitor—norepinephrine uptake inhibitor similar in many respects to the already successful Effexor. So Lilly continues to have a stake in the proper recognition and treatment of depression, and if the ad I presented to them is any indication, they have a forward-thinking insightful attitude toward this crucial disease.
The winner of two awards was Adams Respiratory Therapeutics, for Mr. Mucus. This jovial overweight frog-like droplet is the means by which the company advertises its expectorant, Mucinex. As with Lilly's commercial, here too the company is being informative even as it sells. Nasal mucous is tenacious, unpopular, not frequently talked about, at least in polite company. Like depression, an approach is needed that brings the problem—as well as the possible solutions—to public attention.
Mr. Mucus gives us a new way to think of mucous that is lighter, funnier, more engaging than the annoying problem itself. That's just what a clogged sinus needs.
Marc Siegel, MD, is an internist and associate professor of medicine at New York University and the author of False Alarm: The Truth About the Epidemic of Fear