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Published on August 13th, 2013

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Rebranded Drugs

Some drugs are the same except for their names and packaging. For example:

  • Sarafem, marketed as a treatment for Premenstrual Dysphoria Disorder, is the same drug as Prozac, marketed as a treatment for Major Depressive Disorder. Sarafem pills are pink and purple instead of green and white, and come in a pink package.
  • Zyban, marketed as a smoking cessation aid, is the same drug as Wellbutrin, marketed as a treatment for Major Depressive Disorder.

Some reasons why this is done:

  • There is more money to be made this way. Patent protections on Prozac were about to run out a year after Sarafem was released. Repackaging the drug effectively extended the patent. Also, consumers want to buy products targeted to their specific problems. The cheapest way to do this is to repackage an old drug so consumers think that their problem is being specifically targeted.
  • There is some placebo effect from different packaging and advertising. If consumers believe ads that say a drug will treat their problem, then it will be more likely to work. Drugs like Prozac and Wellbutrin are associated with depression in consumers’ minds. New drug names and advertisements create new associations and expectations, which are part of treatment.

See our take on marketing prescription drugs to consumers.

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