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 its name. It is zolpidem — generic Ambien. But because you dissolve it under your tongue instead of swallowing it, it counts as a “new” brand name drug.
This is the sort of thing Big Pharma does. When the patent on the brand name 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 a small amount of zolpidem in the middle of the night and get the same result for a lot less money. (Talk to your doctor before doing so.)
Brand names are more profitable than generics, and obviously easier to market. “Intermezzo” is certainly more euphonious than “zolpidem tartrate sublingual tablets.” And no doubt somewhere right now, some drug company scientist is trying to think of yet another novel way to market 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 aspirin (“when headache keeps you awake”). Or Zolpidem and bismuth subsalicylate (“when indigestion keeps you awake”). Each would be a patentable new brand name drug with a brand name price. Big Pharma is nothing if not creative. Stay skeptical, my friends. .
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