In it’s TV programme Pill Poppers, Horizon has just given BBC2 viewers an unforgettable lesson in pharmacology of unprecedented educational value. The curative power, paradoxical effects (even ‘homeopathic’ eg. in the case of Ritalin), addictive qualities and side effects of modern pharmaceuticals were brilliantly conveyed to the lay viewer.

But wait a minute! Not everybody understands pharmacology and chemistry. So manufacturers of drugs are surely entitled to simplify things a bit for us.  A current, repetitively screened (unlike Pill Poppers) advertisement for Nurofen® takes simplification to such a surreal  level that I actually enjoyed it and recommend you give it a spin because I think it is fun and will do you some good.

Another way of explaining Nurofen® to the apparently intellectually challenged public could go something like this:

All of the many variations of Nurofen® (11 when I last counted) are combinations or compounds of the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, ibuprofen and other pain-relieving and inflammation-reducing drugs such as codeine, which unfunnily enough, the Horizon programme fingered as a potentially addictive drug. Although all the components of Nurofen® are available individually at much cheaper prices, the makers of Nurofen may well believe that:

  1. Nurofen®’s particular combinations for different problems are especially effective.
  2. It’s cheap enough and much easier to buy these combinations under one label than to source the individual components  – even though the latter option saves you money)
  3. Nurofen® has a high quality control on its components.
  4. Brilliant marketing and advertising of Nurofen® and the memorable logo itself harness diesel power to its therapeutic action in much the same way as skeptics claim homeopathy works!

As for ‘plus’ or ‘extra strength’, words we often see in the advertisements for pain-relieving (and quite often addictive) drugs, the comic genius, Jerry Seinfeld had the last word on the wonderful verbal gymnastics essayed by medical marketers.

“Then they tell you about the pain-relieving ingredient.

There’s always gotta be a lotta that.

Nobody wants anything less than ‘extra-strength’.

‘Extra-strength’ is the absolute minimum.

You can’t even get ‘strength’. ‘Strength’ is out now.

It’s all ‘extra-strength’.

Some people are not satisfied with ‘extra’, they want ‘maximum’.

“Give me the ‘maximum-strength’.”

“Give me the maximum allowable human dose.”

“Figure out what will kill me and then back it off a little bit.”


So we have seen how pharmaceuticals can be explained to the public (the Horizon programme) and how they are marketed to us (the Nurofen® TV advertisement) It would be fun to see what each of these television presentations cost!