Marketing Antidepressants: Prozac and Paxil case study discusses how Prozac and Paxil, known as two of the best-selling mental health drugs, were marketed. It looks into how the manufacturers of these drugs react to the emergence of the generic Prozac into the market.
Youngme Moon; Kerry Herman
Harvard Business Review (502055-HCB-ENG)
May 14, 2002
Case questions answered:
- What was the value proposition of the early antidepressants (the MAOIs and the tricyclics)? Was the value proposition of Prozac similar to these early antidepressants, or different? How was the value proposition of Paxil differentiated from that of Prozac?
- Why did the early antidepressants (the MAOIs and tricyclics) fail to achieve widespread acceptance in the market? What factors accounted for the success of Prozac? What factors accounted for the success of Paxil?
- Case Exhibit 10 consists of a self-test for Social Anxiety Disorder. Take a look at the questions on this test and come up with a prediction for what an average individual of average mental health would score on this test. (Possible scores range from 0 to 68)
- What are the different ways that Lilly and SmithKline Beecham/GlaxoSmithKline (SKB/GSK) have captured value from their respective drugs? Have these companies do a good job of maximizing their product’s revenue potential?
- In anticipation of Prozac coming off patent, Lilly has adopted a multi-pronged strategy. What do you think of the various elements of this strategy? In general, should the company scale back on marketing Prozac, or should it ramp up its Prozac marketing efforts in anticipation of generic competition? What should GSK’s marketing strategy be for Paxil, now that Prozac is coming off patent? Should it be similar to, or different from, Lilly’s strategy?
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Case answers for Marketing Antidepressants: Prozac and Paxil
Marketing Antidepressants: Prozac and Paxil
1. What was the value proposition of the early antidepressants (the MAOIs and the tricyclics)?
The marketing of early antidepressants (MAOIs and tricyclics) held the value proposition of drugs that could only treat clinical depression. At the time, clinical depression was a taboo, people were uncomfortable with the idea and would avoid going to a doctor for it. It did not help that the side-effects of these were quite known and set in the minds of the people. This was one of the main reasons for it not being treated in most adults.
The early anti-depressants were only marketed to specialists and not to general practitioners or end consumers. In itself, the marketing and value proposition limited itself to a niche segment – the specialists – and was seen as something most people don’t want to be associated with.
Was the value proposition of Prozac similar to these early antidepressants, or different?
Prozac was positioned as a ‘wonder’ drug. It was easy to administer, difficult to overdose & its side effects were not considered serious. It helped change the perception of clinical depression being a social taboo. Campaigns such as the “Depression hurts, Prozac can help” were very successful. The marketing campaign for Prozac was unique as for the first time instead of convincing only doctors about the goodness of the drug, it was marketed directly to the consumers.
Moreover, Prozac was marketed as a drug not only for depression but also for transforming personalities and giving them a ‘better life’, and also treat OCD and panic disorder. It shifted the goodness of the drug away from only clinical depression, to rather a life-changing drug, and to also other diseases perhaps not treated that well like OCD and panic disorder.
How was the value proposition of Paxil differentiated from that of Prozac?
Paxil was positioned as an alternative to Prozac initially, but Paxil chose to move on to position itself as being much more than that. It became the drug for “social anxiety disorder” (SAD) along with being more effective than Prozac with fewer side-effects like being in the body only for 21 hours as against 384 hours for Prozac. It was successful in identifying a whole new market and educating them about SAD and its treatment. In its campaigns, it focused not so much on the drug as on the disease.
“Your life is waiting” seemed to strike a chord with the population. Their website lets people take a self-test to diagnose if they were suffering from SAD, thus focusing on educating the market on the disease rather than just the goodness or benefits of the drug. It gives the people the opportunity to realize what they may be missing out on by ignoring the signs of SAD, and rather choose Paxil to be able to live a fuller and a better life.
2. Why did the early antidepressants (the MAOIs and tricyclics) fail to achieve widespread acceptance in the market?
Early antidepressants (the MAOIs and tricyclics) failed to achieve widespread acceptance because of the following two main reasons:
- Difficulty in administering: The earlier antidepressants were difficult to administer. If taken in quantities too small, they wouldn’t work, but if taken in large quantities they could be fatal.
- Acute Side Effects: The MAOIs and Tricyclics carried a huge risk of severe side effects, like severe headaches, high blood pressures and on rare occasions had also been known to cause death from a brain hemorrhage.
The above reasons meant sizeable hassle and associated dangers for patients. Hence, the earlier antidepressants were confined to severest forms of depression.
What factors accounted for the success of Prozac?
Prozac became a major success when it was launched due to several factors…