Did Antidepressants Depress Japan?

Just found this interesting New York Times article from 2004 about the introduction of the concept of depression in Japan since 1999, a country that had no such concept outside of professional psychiatry and medicine.

In the late 1980’s, Eli Lilly decided against selling Prozac in Japan after market research there revealed virtually no demand for antidepressants. Throughout the 90’s, when Prozac and other selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or S.S.R.I.’s, were traveling the strange road from chemical compound to cultural phenomenon in the West, the drugs and the disease alike remained virtually unknown in Japan.

Then, in 1999, a Japanese company, Meiji Seika Kaisha, began selling the S.S.R.I. Depromel. Meiji was among the first users of the phrase kokoro no kaze [common cold of the soul]. The next year, GlaxoSmithKline — maker of the antidepressant Paxil — followed Meiji into the market. Koji Nakagawa, GlaxoSmithKline’s product manager for Paxil, explained: ”When other pharmaceutical companies were giving up on developing antidepressants in Japan, we went ahead for a very simple reason: the successful marketing in the United States and Europe.”

Direct-to-consumer drug advertising is illegal in Japan, so the company relied on educational campaigns targeting mild depression. As Nakagawa put it: ”People didn’t know they were suffering from a disease. We felt it was important to reach out to them.” So the company formulated a tripartite message: ”Depression is a disease that anyone can get. It can be cured by medicine. Early detection is important.”

Link to article ‘Did Antidepressants Depress Japan?’.

One thought on “Did Antidepressants Depress Japan?”

  1. This makes me want to throw up.
    When I first saw pharma commercials on network TV, I wondered, “These are so vague… Honestly, how can this benefit Americans? Advertise to the Drs., not us.”
    The vagueness of the commercials, the lack of intense medical knowledge in an average American, and just the known level of average intelligence in America should be enough evidence that pharma is taking advantage of the masses with ther advertising policies.

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