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Accentuate the Positive – Abilify

Drug companies rarely lie to doctors. They just hammer away at points that put their drug in an advantageous light. In their defense, drug companies pursue a popular adage that we learned as kids, ‘accentuate the positive, minimize the negative’.

In order to increase market share, drug companies invest large sums of money to shape and manage the clinical messages that are delivered about their drugs, whether in the form of advertising, CME, speaker presentations, clinical research, scientific publications, news stories, or clinical guidelines. They do this because it is a proven formula –when you control what’s communicated to doctors and consumers, you control what gets prescribed.

Unfortunately, drug company marketing often leaves out critical details. The details may appear in small print, but first impressions are what counts. Since pharmaceutical companies have a lot of money to spend on marketing, they do a superb job inundating physicians and consumers with positive messages that promote use of their drugs. As a result, we hear more about the side of the story that the drug company wants to tell than the more detailed accounts delivered in unbiased sources like Medical Letter, AHRQ Eisenberg Center Guides, Independent Drug Information Service or Consumer Reports Best Buy Drugs.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at the Abilify DTC Landing Page for Depression. If you were a patient with depression, you might be inspired to ask your primary care physician or psychiatrist for Abilify after seeing this. However, most folks’s enthusiasm for taking Abilify would wane considerably if the following important safety information, which appears in small print when one scrolls to the bottom of the page, were the size of the headline:

**Serious [Abilify] side effects may include: Abnormal or uncontrollable movements of face, tongue, or other parts of body. These may be signs of a serious condition called tardive dyskinesia (TD), which could become permanent

**Most common side effects (≥10%) from all clinical trials involving adults include: ADULTS: Nausea, vomiting, constipation, headache, dizziness, an inner sense of restlessness or need to move (akathisia), anxiety, insomnia, and restlessness

**It is important to contact your healthcare professional if you experience prolonged, abnormal muscle spasm or contraction which may be signs of a condition called dystonia.

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