Saturday, April 23, 2022

Selling Tenormin


What's that old Madison Avenue advertising axiom? If I remember correctly, it's "sell the sizzle not the steak." Sure, every nurse is aware of drug reps acting as poseurs for selling pharmaceuticals with their usual give aways of pens, stationary, and assorted bunk, but when Tenormin went off patent the good folks at Astra Zeneca went bananas with marketing ploys in an attempt to keep the big bucks coming for their name brand gold mine. Tenormin was consistently in the top 20 most frequently prescribed drugs and no doubt brought in gazzilions of dollars which brought smiles to stockholders while cash strapped seniors wolfed down their only affordable meal, Alpo suppers. I knew that trouble was brewing when I learned Alpo only made canine specific meals!

An entire culture was invented to persuade physicians to prescribe the brand name Tenormin in lieu of dirt cheap generic  atenolol. Drum roll please...Wellspring was an entire civilization with Tenormin at the apex, invented by clever marketing gurus. There was even a Wellspring magazine with healthy lifestyle tips centered around consumption of this pricey beta blocker. I perused one issue and I was struck by the well tanned healthy youngsters frolicking around a beach. Not a single geezer  with a tremulous manner and spreading jowls!

The give aways promoting Tenormin were top notch, not your usual cheap pen and stationary give away.  Astra Zeneca was well aware that lots of drug company swag found it's way to the circular file, but who in the world would toss a pair of priceless  collectible coins?  Most physicians were not numismatists and were not aware that the wheat penny featured in the Tenormin collectible coin set was valued at 30 cents and the nickel was likely not worth much more than 5 cents. The fancy encased (I was going to say entombed, but came to my senses,) coin set likely displayed in a prominent place on the good MDs desk as a constant reminder to prescribe Tenormin.

For nurses there was the lovely Wellspring wrist watch complete with a lovely red heart smack in the middle of the dial. Internet websites for advertising were far in the future, but Astra Zeneca had a WATS telephone line number (800-937-4027) where you could listen to a prerecorded message touting the benefits of Tenormin. A sweet sounding starlet rambled on and on how Tenormin did not induce depression, so common with other Beta blockers, because it did not cross the blood/brain barrier. Heck, I used to ring her up late at night just to stay awake. There was something about that melodic voice that kept me going. Dr. Slambow was aware of my tricks and when my scrub nurse skills were hampered by fatigue, he would say, "Fool it's time to call that Tenormin lady!"

Nursing crises of one sort or another could really shiver your timbers and leave you feel like you were walking a high wire with only cunning and a parasol with the chasm  chanting it's siren call way down below. Leave it to Wellspring to come up with a unique antidote for these forlorn times. When the real sh*tstorms rained down on the hapless practitioner. They sprung a genuine Wellspring umbrella as a freebe. My Wellspring parasol lasted all of a couple of hours. While strolling back to my apartment after a late night in the OR, a classic Chicago wind blast destroyed my Wellspring give away. They don't call Chicago the windy city for nothing.

There was something about this tour de force of  pharmaceutical marketing that shook me in some ways I wasn't even able to name. Wellspring just seemed wrong. Most nurses had a less than favorable view of drug sales folks and likened them to vultures, but I had a different avian vision of these proud hucksters of pharmaceutical wonder drugs. I envisioned drug reps as having all the charms of an old country goose: ordinary with a pleasant demeanor, but an irascible beast that will peck your eyes out when it came down to the hard sell.

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