Over­wrought mar­ket­ing? Ads, not re­search, cre­ate some phar­ma best-sell­ers

An over­head light draw­ing at­ten­tion to his face, ac­tor Dan­ny Glover starts to cry, drop­ping his head in­to one hand — then, he abrupt­ly switch­es over to deep bel­ly laughs, be­fore re­sum­ing a straight face. “When I act, if I do this it’s to­tal­ly in my con­trol,” he says, get­ting to the point: “But for some­one with pseudob­ul­bar af­fect, choos­ing to cry or laugh may not be your de­ci­sion.”

The 60-sec­ond TV ad­ver­tise­ment, which ran wide­ly late last year, con­cerns a neu­ro­log­i­cal con­di­tion known by the acronym PBA, char­ac­ter­ized by in­ap­pro­pri­ate, un­con­trolled out­bursts of laugh­ing or cry­ing. Though no drug is men­tioned, the ad­ver­tise­ment is spon­sored by Avanir Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals, an Al­iso Viejo, Calif., firm that launched Nuedex­ta, a pricey, brand-name med­i­cine that tar­gets the dis­or­der. The ad ends by re­fer­ring peo­ple to a web­site and toll-free num­ber for more in­for­ma­tion.

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