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The Rx Available Without A Traditional Prescription

The opium overdose antidote Narcan (naloxone) is a very interesting DTC case. Naloxone is widely used by EMTs and first responders to counteract opioid overdoses. States have recently made Narcan from ADAPT Pharma available to the general public to use on those in the home who overdosed. Narcan is a branded nasal spray version of naloxone.

The interesting development is this is a prescription drug that most states (42) make available from the pharmacist without requiring a doctor to write a script. The new television campaign is an Rx DTC campaign explaining why Narcan should be stocked in households where opioid painkillers are used.

The ad is a :60 second spot that looks like a typical Rx DTC ad. We see a scene with a teenager who injured himself playing sports and is now on an opioid pain killer. The theme is for parents to be ready to deal with an accidental overdose. I assume that Narcan is also widely used to help opioid drug abusers. This ad only deals with prescribed pain use, not illegal drug use, but the idea is the same. Narcan can save a life by reversing the effect of an opioid which has depressed the breathing or induced unresponsive deep sleep in affected individuals.

This is a very serious drug and risks and side effects are discussed just like all DTC Ads. Narcan is running digital ads as well. These ads state that 40% of opioid overdoses are prescription based used for legitimate purposes. The goal of the ad is for every opioid using household to keep Narcan handy. Prescription opioid use is a hot topic in every state because of addiction and abuse. Lawsuits against opioid makers has resulted in large judgements because of over marketing. About 25% of adults have used a prescription opioid in the last two years. According to the CDC, 168 million prescriptions were written in 2018.

Narcan is highly effective and can quickly reverse the effects of opioid overdose. Much like EpiPen, Narcan is something many households should have ready in emergencies. The ad says opioid overdose can happen at any time. The premise is that parents can reduce their anxiety by knowing Narcan is in the house. As a nasal spray, Narcan is easier to administer than an emergency injection, which many people might be reluctant to use.

There is obviously a big market for Narcan given the widespread use of opioids for pain. The DTC effort likely makes financial sense given the sales potential of stocking opioid containing households with an emergency antidote. Like most people, I thought of Narcan as something EMTs and first responders carried rather than a drug we all could keep ready in the household. This DTC campaign, which was developed with help from FCB NYC, hopes to change that.
Bob Ehrlich, Chairman
DTC Perspectives, Inc.
Bob Ehrlich
Chairman & Chief Executive Officer at DTC Perspectives
Bob Ehrlich has over 20 years marketing experience in pharmaceutical and consumer products. Bob is the CEO of DTC Perspectives, Inc., a DTC services company founded in 2000. DTC Perspectives, Inc. developed the DTC National Conference, the largest DTC conference in the industry. DTC Perspectives, Inc. also publishes DTC Perspectives, a quarterly journal dedicated to DTC issues and practices. In addition DTC Perspectives, Inc. does DTC consulting for established and emerging companies, and provides DTC marketing plans for pharmaceutical companies.
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