Belsomra wakes up a tired category


A few years ago, The New Yorker ran a fascinating story about the FDA and the long, nightmarish process Merck underwent to get approval for a new class of anti-insomnia drugs. The article appeared in December 2013 and this month, the first commercial promoting the medication arrived…with a whisper.

Unlike most sleeping pills, which knock you out (like Ambien), Belsomra works on a different part of the brain and blocks the neurotransmitters that promote wakefulness. Needless to say, in our hyper-aroused always-on times, falling asleep, staying asleep and waking up without grogginess would be a dream come true (although the list of contraindications and side-effects is enough to scare anyone awake).

Unfortunately, the new spot misses the point. It shows a woman being kept from sleep by her dog (helpfully named “Wake”) while what she really wants is “Sleep,” portrayed by her furry white kitty.

This is backwards! Anyone who has cats knows that they come alive at night, chasing imaginary prey and jumping on our faces. It’s our dogs, who snuggle in with us, often under the covers.

Belsomra is a potential blockbuster, a disrupter in Big Pharma and in bedrooms everywhere. I just wish the brand’s creativity had lived up to its very cool science.

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