I just saw a commercial for a “new” prescription drug. Only it isn’t. Not really.
Intermezzo is “for the treatment of insomnia when a middle-of-the-night awakening is followed by difficulty returning to sleep.” There is nothing new about this drug except the name, method of administration, and likely higher price. Intermezzo is just zolpidem, the same as Ambien, and zolpidem is an inexpensive generic drug.
This is the sort of thing Big Pharma does. When the patent on the original Ambien expired, for example, Ambien CR, a controlled release form of zolpidem, was introduced. Now comes Intermezzo. The gimmick this time is that it’s administered sublingually — dissolved under the tongue so it will take effect faster. There’s nothing new about being able to take it in the middle of the night. The half-life of zolpidem is 2-4 hours. Always has been. You could take generic zolpidem in the middle of the night and get the same result for a lot less money.
Brand names are more profitable than generics, and obviously easier to market. “Intermezzo” is certainly more melodic than “zolpidem tartrate sublingual tablets.” No doubt somewhere right now, some drug company scientist is trying to think of yet another novel way to package zolpidem. Perhaps a liquid (“fast acting, pleasant tasting”). Coated tablets (“easier to swallow”) or enteric-coated tablets (“for sensitive stomachs”). Maybe even suppositories (“when nausea is keeping you awake”). And then there are the combos, maybe zolpidem and asprin (“when headache keeps you awake”). Or Zolpidem and bismuth subsalicylate (“when indigestion keeps you awake”). Each a patentable new drug guaranteed to carry a brand name price.
Big Pharma is nothing if not creative. Stay skeptical, my friends.
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