Health Inc.

Marketing Playbook Revealed For Forest's Lexapro

Between lawsuits, congressional investigations and the occasional revelations of ex-drug company employees, you've probably started to get a hazy picture of how Big Pharma markets its wares.

bandage on a $100 bill i i

hide captionMarketing side effects include government investigations.

Joe Raedle/Getty Images
bandage on a $100 bill

Marketing side effects include government investigations.

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

But the closest things we've ever seen to a team playbook came out today in a New York Times report on Forest Laboratories' marketing of the antidepressant Lexapro. The 88 pages, made public by the Senate Special Committee on Aging, are an excerpt from the full document, which may have run more than 270 pages, according to the Times.

The "Lexapro Fiscal 2004 Marketing Plan," outlines how Forest made Lexapro, a latecomer to the antidepressant category, into a blockbuster. Sales of Lexapro were $2.3 billion in the company's most recent fiscal year.

How did Forest create a superstar out a medicine that is essentially a re-engineered version of Celexa, another company drug that went generic in 2004? Take a look at the playbook, though psychiatrist and blogger Dan Carlat recommends you do it on an empty stomach.

You'll find the budget for ghostwritten, er, bylined articles, millions of dollars earmarked for continuing medical education programs to put Lexapro in a good light, and more than $34 million to pay for doctors to talk about Lexapro with other doctors over dinners or lunches organized by sales reps.

A Forest spokesman told the Times the company was "aware" its Lexapro plan was making the rounds in the Senate but otherwise had no comment. Earlier this year Forest disclosed it had put aside $170 million following company discussions with the Justice Department about investigations of marketing for medicines including Lexapro.

Bonus Bucks: For more on the marketing of drugs through medical education, check out the archived video and written testimony from a July hearing before the Senate Special Committee on Aging.

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