Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Placebo Effect Plagues the Pharma Industry

Wired magazine (via Neatorama) recently ran an interesting article with a surprising title: “Placebos Are Getting More Effective. Drugmakers Are Desperate to Know Why.”

“Despite historic levels of industry investment in R&D, the US Food and Drug Administration approved only 19 first-of-their-kind remedies in 2007 — the fewest since 1983 — and just 24 in 2008,” writes Steve Silberman. “Half of all drugs that fail in late-stage trials drop out of the pipeline due to their inability to beat sugar pills.”

If a drug cannot beat a sugar pill when it comes to providing relief, it won’t go on the market.

From 2001 to 2006, the percentage of new products cut from development after Phase II clinical trials, when the pharmaceuticals are first tested against placebo, rose by 20 percent. The failure rate in more extensive Phase III trials increased by 11 percent, mainly due to surprisingly poor showings against placebo.

Teasing out the true effects of a pharmaceutical from the brain’s own healing mechanisms, triggered by a belief in the efficacy of an ersatz medication, is a real challenge. In the meantime there are fewer new pharmaceuticals available to ailing patients and more financial woes for the beleaguered pharma industry.

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Thursday, November 12, 2009

Making a Natural Connection with the Social Media

Last month, Estée Lauder launched a clever promotion in New York City and other key markets. The beauty leader offered visitors to its retail counters free “social media makeovers,” including product samples and a professionally shot and retouched photo that they could use on their blogs.

The program has a two-fold strategy, according to spokesperson Tara Eisenberg: helping to contemporize the 63-year-old brand for younger women, while acknowledging the fact that the older women who are have traditionally been Estée Lauder’s target consumer are rapidly embracing the social media.

“The gift that the brand hopes will keep on giving is that the [bloggers’] profile photos include the Estee Lauder logo in the background, which, assuming they aren't Photoshopped into oblivion, could give the brand lasting presence on Facebook beyond its own 27,000-member plus fan page,” reports Jack Neff in Ad Age. Public relations, of course, is also being used to spread the word about the campaign in the mainstream media.

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