Thorazine for some and Quaaludes for all your patients!

Over at Terra Sigillata, Abel Pharmboy dissects the deeper meaning of the Rozarem ad which features Abe Lincoln, a beaver and a scuba diver telling an insomniac how much they miss him. The ad is hawking Takeda Pharm’s latest little sleeping pill. The Rozarem campaign is a departure from the usual direct-to-consumer drug advertising. It’s certainly edgier and more surreal than Mandy Patinkin looking sincerely into the camera and urging you to “ask your doctor about Crestor.”
I am not a fan (to say the least) of pharma’s DTC advertising, but I’ll leave my frothing rant on that subject for another time. When I first started in the Biz 18 years ago this month, ads for prescription drugs were confined to JAMA, The Lancet, or speciality journals. These were the days before e-journals and pdf’s. There were some pretty intriguing ones to be found as glossy color prints or more subdued black and white tones. When I worked on targets for prostate cancer, I often read, appropriately enough, The Prostate, and also the Journal of Urology. Some of the ads in the latter were eyebrow-raising. Who knew there were, uh, gadgets like that for male plumbing? Honestly, the impact of phosphodiesterase-5 inhibitors cannot be underestimated. Then there was the article on cosmetic surgery to reverse circumcision, complete with figures and diagrams.

In addition to articles on “I never would have thought about that” urological surgery, I sometimes got sidetracked by the drug ads, particularly as I hunted for older articles. I expect that this collection of vintage drug ads has been noted in Science Blogs before my momentous arrival, but heck, it deserves a reprise now that Abel is discussing beavers and dead presidents. I mean, what well-meaning doc could resist writing a ‘scrip for this marvelous sleep aid?
And for Kevin’s pals over at the Stop the ACLU site, I think a bit of chlorpromazine is in order.
Check out the link for many more. I think only two of the companies, Abbott and Lilly, who sold those old-timey drugs, remain intact and as yet unacquired and unmerged.

6 thoughts on “Thorazine for some and Quaaludes for all your patients!”

  1. Thorazine for some and Quaaludes for all your patients!

    A riff on Kang and Kodos appealing to the masses?
    If you’re into explaining ads, what’s with this one?
    They’ve got every need underlined, an elixir, a kid with dilated pupils and gentleness indicated. This could explain much…

  2. Hee. “Agitated senile.” Hee!
    Ah, the good old days when a lot of psychotropic drugs were advertised precisely for what they REALLY are – chemical restraint. And thank the FSM for them.

  3. Dr. Bushwell is the queen of subtle Simpson’s allusions as her title here shows! “Abortions for some, little American flags for all.” – Kang (or Kodos) from The Simpsons. You have one fellow Simpson’s fan out there.
    This was from the great episode where Kang and Kodos attempt to co-opt the US poltical system and disguise themselves as Clinton and Dole.

  4. double-soup & Brian, yes, indeed that is a riff on Kang’s and Kodos’ political machinations: Season 8, episode 1: Treehouse of Horror VII, Citizen Kang.
    A couple of my favorite quotes from that episode (besides the one which I reference in the title of this blog piece):

    Kent Brockman: Senator Dole, why should people vote for you instead of President Clinton?
    Kang: It makes no difference which one of us you vote for. Either way, your planet is doomed. DOOMED!
    Kent: Well, a refreshingly frank response there from senator Bob Dole.
    George Stephanopoulos: Uh, Mr. President, Sir. People are becoming a bit… confused by the way your and your opponent are, well, constantly holding hands.
    Kang: We are merely exchanging long protein strings. If you can think of a simpler way, I’d like to hear it.

    Yeah, the sub-text of the Nembutal ad is, er, disturbing. I suppose that Nembutal represented an advance in chemical babysitting over good ol’ laudanum (tincture of opium).
    Sue, I often think that the administrative assitants for executives in Korporate Amerika would be well advised to replace the hard candies in the little dishes by their desks (for visitors to the executive suite and the exectuive him- or herself) with Thorazine and Haldol.

  5. I had to do a double-take because I thought you called me Abe Pharmboy (which brings to me odd visions of appearing in the Rozerem ad myself).
    I love these old adverts and must admit having to learn about older pharmacology through various media, including old cultural drug references such as The Clash’s ode to Montgomery Clift in “The Right Profile”:

    Nembutal numbs it all,
    But I prefer alcohol

    Ah, the fodder that led to me pursuing graduate school in the pharmaceutical sciences….

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: