Databank health: Rogaine's loss is propecia's gain(e)

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Hair loss, asthma and arthritis pain medications are the leading pharmaceutical products being advertised on the Web. According to data from New York-based Jupiter Media Metrix's AdRelevance, Merck & Co.'s Propecia hair-loss treatment led the sector, with 7,926,000 impressions for the month of May. A Merck spokeswoman would not discuss specific details of the campaign, though she said the company is targeting sites that Web-savvy men frequent. One of the ads features a man looking up at his still-tressed scalp and asks if he's worried about hair loss; another ad (above) uses the time-honored "Click here" technique.

The campaign is part of an online presence that includes, which currently, via a pop-up window, is offering $10 off men's next Propecia purchase-as long as customers fill out a certain amount of information, including email addresses and whether or not they currently take the drug. While some of that information is probably needed to resolve regulatory issues since the drug isn't approved for distribution all over the world, Merck is also using the Internet to build a database. Some of the non-mandatory parts of the questionnaire ask respondents about the type of hair loss they are experiencing, how long they've noticed it, whether they've discussed hair loss with their physician and whether they are taking other substances aimed at the problem, such as herbal treatments or Rogaine.

But not all baldness cures think alike. Curiously, Rogaine, made by Pharmacia Corp., does not even rank in the May list of the top 55 online pharmaceutical advertisers.

The No. 2 and 3 prescription drugs being advertised online last month were both asthma drugs: GlaxoSmithKline Pharmaceuticals' Flovent, with 7,902,000 impressions, and AstraZeneca's asthma medication Rhino Aqua, with 7,004,000. That company's Zomig migraine medicine was fourth at 6,882,000.

Allergy drug Allegra, made by Aventis Pharmaceuticals, followed, with 6,430,000 impressions, and Pfizer's Pharmaceuticals Group's Celebrex arthritis pain medication had 6,312,000. Rounding out the top 10 were Merck's anti-inflammatory arthritis drug Vioxx and Zocor cholesterol medicine, with 6,275,000 and 5,851,000, respectively. Prevnar infant vaccine, made by American Home Products Corp.'s Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, had 5,559,000 impressions, while Pharmacia's Activella hormone replacement therapy had 5,436,000.

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