Advertisements for Psychotropic Drugs in East Germany

"Papachin – for old age vertigo"

Going through some old boxes of notes, I came across the following:  a number of East German advertisements for stimulants, sleeping pills, and anti-anxiety medications.  The ads are all from the psychiatric journal Psychiatrie, Neurologie und medizinische Psychologie.  Unfortunately, I did not keep notes on the exact dates of the ads, but a few, at least, appear to be from around 1963.

For those interested, Director Volker Hess, Viola Balz, and Ulrike Klöppel at the Institute for History of Medicine in Berlin are presently conducting research on a project examining the manufacture, distribution and uses of psychotropic drugs in East Germany –“Psychochemicals Crossing the Wall: Die Einführung der Psychopharmaka in der DDR, 1952-1989.”

"Medication for sleeping and getting back to sleep – Dormutil"
"Fast acting – deep and peaceful sleep – waking without depression: Dormutil"
An ad for the stimulant "Aponeuron," comparing its effectiveness to caffeine
"Neuroton – for treatment of anxiety, tension, depressions"

– Eghigian

5 thoughts on “Advertisements for Psychotropic Drugs in East Germany

  1. Walter Vandereycken says:

    A systematic analysis would be most welcome, as I have tried for more recent ads in the Dutch journal of Psychiatry:
    Vandereycken W. & Kuyken K. Een analyse van advertenties voor psychofarmaca in het Tijdschrift voor Psychiatrie [An analysis of advertisements for psychotropic drugs in the Dutch Journal of Psychiatry] Tijdschrift voor Psychiatrie, 2009, 51(6), 407-411.
    Background: Through the marketing of psychotropics the pharmaceutical industry is able to influence the way in which psychiatrists practise their profession. Aim: To look at the image of psychiatry as reflected in advertisements for psychotropics. Method: Quantitative and qualitative analysis of the advertisements for psychotropics in the Tijdschrift voor Psychiatrie between 1999 and 2006. Results: On average 6 per cent of the total number of pages was given over annually to advertisements of psychotropics. The number of pages used for these advertisements changed over the years, with a sharp decline between 2002 and 2004. Before 2002 the majority of advertisements was for antidepressants, but later most of them were for antipsychotics. Three-quarters of the illustrations for antidepressants featured women whereas three-quarters of the illustrations for antipsychotics featured men. In general, the advertisements were of an ‘emotional’ nature and surprisingly few of them contained any scientific information. Conclusion: The advertisements for psychotropics portrayed a stereotyped image implying that it is mainly women who are depressed and mainly men who are psychotic. In its advertisements the pharmaceutical industry seeks primarily emotional reactions and uses hardly any scientific arguments. We wonder if the editorial boards of scientific journals should perhaps adopt a more critical attitude to these kinds of advertisements.

    1. gae16802 says:

      An interesting project and set of findings. I wonder why, then, drug companies and their advertisers came to believe that such “emotional” forms of advertising would be more effective in attracting researchers and clinicians than more obviously data-driven forms? Were you able to explain what informed advertisers’ thinking in this regard?

  2. Walter Vandereycken says:

    An interesting question but perhaps simple to answer: although they sometimes believe the opposite, psychiatrists are not more “immune” against whatever form of advertisements (and psychological influence through marketing) than other people! Most of us don’t buy a new car after an “evidence-based” judgment… All those technical data are boring, and that seems to be true for the marketing of medication.

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