Reuters, February 16, 2007: A media exhibit featuring a campaign for a fake drug to treat a fictitious illness caused a commotion because some people think the illness is real.

Here’s what this is all about: Australian artist Justine Cooper created a marketing campaign for a non-existent drug called Havidol for Dysphoric Social Attention Consumption Deficit Anxiety Disorder (DSACDAD), which she also invented. Heck of a name … don’t you think?

But the multi-media exhibit at the Daneyal Mahmood Gallery in New York is so convincing, people think it is real. The gallery includes a website, mock television and print advertisements and billboards.

“People have walked into the gallery and thought it was real,” Manhood said in an interview. “They didn’t get the fact that this was a parody or satire.”

Sham Illness Exploded On The Internet: But Mahmood said it really took off over the Internet. In the first few days after the web site went up, it had 5,000 hits. The last time he checked it had reached a quarter of a million. “The thing that amazes me is that it has been folded into real websites for panic and anxiety disorder. It’s been folded into a website for depression. It’s been folded into hundreds of art blogs,” he added.

The intention was to poke fun at the questionable tactics of drug companies use to peddle their treatments to the public.

If you’ve watched any television lately, you know there is no shortage of prescription drug ads. Consumer advertising for prescription medications was legalized in the United States in 1997.

Cooper said she intended the exhibit to be subtle. “The drug ads themselves are sometimes so comedic. I couldn’t be outrageously spoofy so I really wanted it to be a more subtle kink of parody that draws you in, makes you want this thing, and then makes you wonder why you want it and maybe where you can get it,” she added.

Identify With A Fake Condition? Mahmood said that in addition to generating interest among the artsy crowd, doctors and medical students have been asking about the exhibit. “I think people identify with the condition,” he said. They identify with a fake condition? Really Or was it something much more powerful at play… Like what?

Here’s a Very Good Possibility as to the Reason Why: According to a January 29, 2007 article in HealthDay News, there’s not enough information and too much emotion in drug company ads.

New research claims that televised ads for prescription drugs are riddled with emotional appeals and lack helpful information on the disease itself.

“The ads really use emotion instead of information to promote drugs,” said the study’s lead author, Dominick Frosch, an Assistant Professor of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles. “The question we have to ask ourselves is: (Should buying) prescription drugs be the same as buying soap?”

What’s shocking is: Pharmaceutical companies spent an estimated $1.9 billion on TV advertising in 2005. Frosch and his team studied a sample of 38 ads for prescription drugs that were on television in June and July of 2004. From this they were able to determine the common strategies.

Using statistical analysis based on the frequency an ad was aired, the researchers report that 82 percent of the ads made “factual claims,” but much less provided further information about illnesses such as causes (26 percent), risk factors (26 percent) or prevalence (25 percent).

And What May Be the Most Important Part of all This:98 percent of ads made “emotional appeals,” and 78 percent implied that use of the medication would result in social approval. 58 percent of the time, products were depicted as medical breakthroughs.

According to the article, the drugs advertised included Allerga (allergy) Ambien (insomnia), and Cialis (impotence), among others.

An Average American Watches 16 Hours of Drug Ads Per Year! According to the new study, only two developed countries — the United States and New Zealand — allow drug companies as much open and almost unrestricted access to the TV airwaves.

And Chew On This: The average American television viewer now spends 16 hours a year watching prescription drug ads, “far exceeding the average time spent with a primary care physician,” Frosch’s team said.

But drug advertising wasn’t always this “wide-wild-west.” Before 1997, any drug ad — on air  or in print –had to include lengthy details about the drug. Those details are still found today in magazine ads for prescription drugs.

But, in 1997, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration made it easier for the companies to advertise on TV. “They could just make a major statement that captures the primary risks and make adequate provisions to refer the consumers to other sources for more detail,” Frosch said. “They refer to a concurrent print ad or a website or toll-free number.”

Of course, even if patients are wooed by an ad, they can’t get prescription drugs on their own. But, Frosch said, “it’s not enough to rely on doctors to make the right decisions about drugs that patients should take.”

“The ads are effective to moving consumers t ask doctors for these prescriptions,” he said. “And patients sometimes get the prescriptions, even though it’s not the appropriate drug.”

Frosch called on lawmakers to change the rules to force drug companies to provide more information about the medications they advertise. He also suggested that consumers be skeptical of drug claims.

In 2006, the American Medical Association called for a temporary ban on advertising for newly approved drugs.

So What’s the Bottom Line On All This? What’s amazing is that tricky marketers can create an exhibit so good that people actually believe they have a fake disease. What’s even more amazing is that is seems like. if what the new research is showing is correct, that drug companies are BOMBARDING the major television networks with similar advertising techniques designed to make consumers run to their doctors and demand what they just saw on the commercial.

With sophisticated market research, advertising techniques and almost unlimited funds…you have to wonder…do you really have a health problem serious enough to require prescription medication … or … are you just responding to the emotional appeal of an ad? It’s something to think about when you realize ALL drugs have side effects.

From a hypnotic perspective, the drug marketers are capitalizing on television trance creating emotional suggestions that the viewer is ill and needs the drug they are pushing.