In an article on Salon called “Big Pharma’s placebo problem” the author suggests it’s “corporate deception to rebrand drugs. He uses the example of Prozac which was rebranded as Sarafem for PMDD and feels this was a prime example of how pharma fools consumers. I was on the Sarafem team and I can say that launching Sarafem was good marketing and helped woman deal with a need that until then was unmet by their physicians.When we did research with women we found out that indeed many of them did suffer from a severe form of PMS called PMDD and that it was affecting their relationships and quality of life. However we also found that Prozac as a brand was so stigmatizing that many women would not take it. So we rebranded Prozac and launched Sarafem which was very successful. The first couple of weeks on the website I had over 250 women post their experiences with PMDD and less than 2% of posts were negative.
So was the rebranding of Prozac deception or good marketing? Well if you had attended the research and listen to women talk about PMDD you would have seen that their needs were not being met and that, in most cases, they were desperate for help. I would also argue that in the age of the Internet it’s impossible to hide anything from web savvy consumers.