Analysis of Advertising for a Prescription Drug

Since pharmaceutical companies have begun advertising their products on television, physicians are frequently finding that their patients are coming to see them to request medications based on ad campaigns rather than appropriate treatment. Because more than $4 billion are spent annually on advertising by such companies, that dilemma for healthcare providers, these instances have become increasingly common (Aubrey, 2007.) A common category of such commercials for such products are sleep aids, which present a simplistic view of how the medication can “cure” insomnia. This paper will discuss Lunesta, the ways in which it is marketed to consumers and healthcare providers in both media and print formats.

One such print ad appears in magazines and newspapers on a regular basis. The ad, directed at consumers, contrasts Lunesta with Ambien, one of its chief competitors, showing a woman lying awake in bed, with the caption “if you’re not getting a full night sleep with Ambien” next to a picture of the same woman sleeping soundly, with the caption “try Lunesta to help you sleep through the night.” The ad then gives some brief information about the FDA approval, and claims that Lunesta is proven to provide 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night (Lunesta Sleeping Pill Commercial Ad, 2012.)

A 60-second television ad directed to consumers describes in a dreamy fashion and narrated by a soothing voice , adorned by green butterflies fluttering around while the voice talks about the joys of getting a good night’s sleep. This is followed by the requisite warnings that while taking Lunesta, people should refrain from driving, and may experience abnormal signs such as aggression, hallucination, or depression, and for depressed patients, the condition may worsen or possibly cause suicide. In addition, allergic reactions may occur, which are rare, but may be fatal, and unpleasant side effects may be experienced such as changes in taste, smell, dizziness, etc. Finally, the consumer is advised to ask “your Dr. if Lunesta is right for you.” If so, the consumer can get Lunesta for zero [email protected]: the ad culminates with the words “there’s a land of restful sleep–we can help you get there” (Talk to Your Healthcare Professional about Insomnia, 2012.)

On its website, the company that produces Lunesta, Sunovion, claims that Lunesta is the number one prescribed sleeping aid, and once again, appeals to the people who are unable to sleep through the night. It claims that over 31 million prescriptions for Lunesta have been written in order to combat the two major problems presented by insomnia: difficulty falling asleep and early-morning awakening (Talk to Your Healthcare Professional about Insomnia, 2012.) The website attempts to make it as easy as possible to try Lunesta, offering samples, coupons, savings regarding copayments, and testimonials from people whose sleep problems have been solved by taking Lunesta.

On the other hand, the advertising that is directed towards healthcare providers is much more formal and informational, rather than appealing to the emotions the way the consumer advertising does. In some magazines, the prescribing and other information for doctors appears, and it emphasizes to a much greater degree the cautionary information about Lunesta than the information in ads directed at consumers. On its website, there are a variety of menu options for healthcare providers, including requests for dosing information, product information to distribute to patients, as well as requests for co-pay cards for patients and samples of the medication. There is an overview of Lunesta, including indications and safety information that contains materials about contraindications, as well as possible explanations for lack of success in treating insomnia with Lunesta for certain patients. The literature for doctors also includes commonly observed adverse reactions, some of which were mentioned in the patient literature, including unpleasant taste, headache, somnolence, infection, dizziness, dry mouth, rash, anxiety, and hallucinations (Resources for Healthcare Professionals.)

The information directed at the doctors presents a much more serious picture of the possible side effects associated with Lunesta. Gone are the butterflies and peaceful portrayals of women soundly sleeping in bed. Instead, the doctor’s information contains stark warnings about abnormal thinking, and behavioral changes, agitation, bizarre behavior, and in combination with the use of alcohol, increased risk for these behaviors (Resources for Healthcare Professionals.) There is a much more clear warning about Lunesta being taken by patients who are already experiencing depression, including reporting not only suicidal thoughts and ideation, but completed suicides. In addition, the prescribing information includes the warning that taking Lunesta can create dependence as well as withdrawal upon discontinuation.

The relevance of examining and contrasting these advertisements to nursing practice is that healthcare professionals must clarify for patients the realities of medications that they have seen advertised on television. It is important for nurses to educate patients that the images that are presented on television or in magazine ads are not necessarily, or usually, the complete picture of the medication, which includes very real risks and contraindications. Nurses are in a position to help patients understand that the desire to self prescribe or diagnose based on ads seen on television or read in magazines presents dangers to patients, and that nurses are able to help patients understand the differences between what is presented to the consumer in contrast with that which is determined by the sound knowledge base of a nurse or physician.


(Baird, 2012.)


(Lunesta Sleeping Pill Commercial Ad, 2012)




Aubrey, A. (2007, August 13). Drug Ads Play up Benefit, Downsize Risks. Retrieved January 12, 2013, from NPR.

Baird, S. (2012, April 3). Lunesta and Stoogesta? Retrieved January 20, 2013, from England, sweetie. On second and once


Lunesta Is the Number One Prescribed Sleep Aid. (2012). Retrieved January 12, 2013, from MEDIA AD

Lunesta Sleeping Pill Commercial Ad. (2012, February 2). Retrieved January 12, 2013, from  PRINT AD

Resources for Healthcare Professionals. (n.d.). Retrieved January 12, 2013, from Sunovion: MEDIA AD

Talk to Your Healthcare Professional about Insomnia. (2012). Retrieved January 12, 2013, from MEDIA AD