Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Sex, Greed and Phamaceuticals, or, why sex will cost you more when you’re over sixty

Why do women in Viagra ads look like
hookers? Read below and learn.
No sex for you, Gramps. Uh, not for you either, Grandma. Not if you need a pill to get yourself into sexual motion. But there is a ray of hope for both of you — if you live long enough.

For the rest of you, whose sexual plumbing is still working well enough for you to not have noticed so far, we regret to offer the following report:  

Pfizer, the manufacturer of Viagra, and Eli Lilly, the manufacturer of Cialis, have been doing a  Martin Shkreli with the prices of these products. Their 2010 list prices have tripled.

In fact. these days, the list price of each drug is about fifty bucks per pill. And that has people like Dr. Elizabeth Kavaler, a sexual disfunction specialist at one New York City hospital, mournfully pointing out that, “Once you get to a certain prices point, sex becomes a financial decision” that “takes a lot of joy out of this.”

More bad news: the Associated Press reports that they interviewed six specialists in sexual dysfunction, and five of those reported that patients were giving up on sex because of prices.

If pharma companies will triple the price of optional products, such as those that make sex possible, what do you suppose they’ll do with the price of a product that you must have or you'll die? And you were upset by drug gouger Martin Shkreli? He’s just the tip of the iceberg.

All this is sad, but hardly surprising. The unmitigated greed of drug companies is driving insurance costs and other healthcare costs through the roof. It appears to be the intention of the Republican Congress  to let the situation continue. Not so for Donald Trump, who claims he wants to bring down drug prices. But who knows if he means it?

Meanwhile, drug company CEOs suck millions out of the economy and stuff the money into their own pockets. And people in need of medication suffer.

Which is not to say that the drug companies are taking  thrifty senior citizens — or any other abstainers from their products — lying down.  They’re spending big bucks like there’s no tomorrow to urge you to consume more drugs.

Kantar Media, a media measurement and monitoring service, reported that drug advertising direct to consumers topped four and a half billion dollars in 2014.  That’s more than gets spent advertising Toyota or Chrysler automobiles, or all of the various services of Verizon. They’re out to make you feel that you just gotta have it, even if you can’t afford it.

Nor should it be any surprise that the women in the Viagra ads look just a tetch too young to be the wives of likely Viagra users. For that matter, they’re too young even to be second wives of most of the male geriatric crowd. Instead, they mostly come off as looking like high class hookers on  their way to work. And don’t think that’s just a coincidence.

Back in my ad agency days, one of the lessons that got pounded into our heads about advertising to the “fifty-plus market” was that senior citizens imagine themselves looking at least ten years younger than they really are.

So if you want to talk to a sixty-five year old man, show a fifty-something year old man. By extension, it follows that if a sixty year old man imagines he's fifty-ish, maybe he could pick up — or pay for — a thirty year old, umm, escort. 
Perhaps that’s why the ads show the “fifty year old” guy and the hooker checking into hotels, or onto cruise ships. If he brought her home, his wife would throw both of them out of the house.

Okay, let’s leave further machinations relating to male geezers and their sex fantasies to the market research people at Pfizer and Lilly. But we ought to address the economics of the situation.

Specifically, if customers are dropping out of the boner pill market because they can’t pay that kind of money, doesn’t that hurt drug company income and profits?

Not necessarily. In fact, the opposite can be true. Let’s say it’s 2010 and ten senior citizens go out and buy one Viagra pill each for $17 a pill. That produces $170 in sales.

Now let’s say it’s 2016, and the price has roughly tripled to $50 a pill. That’s so expensive that five of the original ten customers despair and decide to live without sex. That leaves five customers, at $50 a piece, or a total of $250 in sales. That’s $80 more income than the company made in 2010. 

Now suppose that instead of ten customers we’re talking about millions, each of them consuming several pills a month.  Do the math. It can be considerably more profitable to sell fewer pills at a higher price.

But don’t despair. The AP also reports:
Now, a little relief is coming. Late next year, Viagra and Cialis will get at least one generic competitor costing slightly less; prices will plunge later when more generics reach the market. For women, an Addyi rival is in late-stage testing. A few other products now have generic versions, and other options are in development.
Which means if you live long enough and the “other options” get developed, you might save enough over time to actually pay for one of the hookers in the Viagra ads.

1 comment:

Cirze said...

The ones who can remember what sex was like when they get to the age of needing help will be the lucky ones.

As the poisoning (therefore increasing drug needs for all types of ailments) of the population kicks into high gear.

Good times.

Thanks for all you do to keep us informed.