The results are in! Lunesta wins both the DTC National Gold Award as well as Prescription Access Litigation (PAL) Project’s “While You were Sleeping” Bitter Pill Award! (For more on these awards, see “DTC National Advertising Awards Winners” and “The While You Were Sleeping Award: For Overmarketing Insomnia Medications to Anyone who’s ever had a Bad Night’s Sleep“).

Guess which one Lunesta marketing director Jay Popli and McCann-Erickson (the Lunesta ad agency) general manager Andrew Schirmer will hang on their walls?

I wasn’t at the DTC National Award Dinner — me getting a press pass for that event is about as easy as a camel passing through the eye of a needle — but I was invited to PAL’s online Bitter Pill awards press conference.

These two organizations square off against each other viz-a-viz competing drug ad awards every year.

PAL claims to represent consumers in class action lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies and targets deceptive marketing. It is against any DTC advertising — including 60-second TV ads — that do not include the full product labeling (see “FDA DTC Hearings Day 2“).

DTC Prespectives Magazine, which hosts the DTC National Awards, is an industry publication whose very existence obviously completely depends on DTC advertising.

These two organizations could not be further apart on the DTC advocacy spectrum. Both agree, however, that Lunesta deserves an award — isn’t that nice?

According to PAL, Lunesta had more than $321 million in sales in 2005 and Sepracor spent more than $215 million advertising it that year, making it #2 in direct to consumer advertising for all prescription drugs (PAL cites credible sources for these data).

I guess you could call that a positive return on investment: for every dollar spent on advertising, Lunesta made $1.49. It’s a bit less, however, than the $1.68, estimated for DTC in general (see “eDetailing ROI Better than DTC?“). Keep in mind that it’s only the first year the product is on the market and the competition for market share is fierce. “Its sales in 2006,” notes PAL, “are expected to increase significantly as the aggressive marketing begins to really pay off.”

PAL levels several criticisms of the Lunesta ad campaign including the allegation that Sepracor is violating the PhRMA DTC Guiding Principles by running reminder ads. I have also pointed this out recently (see “Sepracor Sneaks In Lunesta Reminder Ad“). Either PAL is confirming my observation or else they are just picking up what I posted without attribution to me. I didn’t bother to ask them what evidence they had to back up their claim.

What Chutzpah!
Given that some Lunesta ads are in violation of at least one of PhRMA’s DTC guidelines, I find it strange that attendees of the DTC National conference would have the chutzpah to give Lunesta marketers a Gold Award at a conference in which “Critical Issue #1” was “What is the future of DTC marketing? Are you ready for the new rules — from FDA — from Congress? The PhRMA guiding principles?” Not only that, but representatives from the FDA, PhRMA, and Public Citizen — Ralph Nader was an invited speaker/panel member — were also in attendance!

Tell me, Ralph, did you find any irony in this?