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Solvay Touts Testosterone Boost for Boomers

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Baby boomers who don't want to age, or give up their sex lives, are continuing to reshape where marketing dollars are spent in the pharmaceutical area. This week, Solvay Pharmaceuticals launched an unbranded Web site targeting men over the age of 45 with information about low testosterone.

Men with low testosterone, or "Low T," as Solvay has branded it, suffer from decreased sex drive, loss of energy, body changes, depressed mood and erectile dysfunction. Solvay markets Androgel, a cream applied to the skin daily that increases testosterone levels in men. Solvay claims that 13 million U.S. men in the age bracket have undiagnosed Low T and that 90% of them are undiagnosed.

The site, www.IsItLowT.com, was created by Tribal DDB Health Worldwide, New York. It is heavy on animation, a contrast to most pharmaceutical Web sites, which tend to be text-oriented. A shadow greets viewers with the message: "Hello. Recognize me? I'm a shadow of who you used to be before low testosterone, or Low T, started slowing you down."

The shadow then guides viewers through five vignettes in which dumpy, depressed men and their loving-but-dissatisfied spouses are urged to ask their doctors about Low T. In the background of each vignette, the men's shadows indicate how life was back in the good old days. Viewers are urged to ask their doctors, "Is it Low T?"

The shadow of your former self "was one of the concepts our executive creative director thought of on a weekend," said Tim Pantello, managing partner at Tribal DDB. ""He sent it around and said 'this is really the big insight.'"

On the site's homepage, two of the five conditions associated with Low T are sex-related, but the company denies it is trying to steal a share of the Viagra-Cialis-Levitra market.

"Erectile dysfunction is a very common symptom of low testosterone and patients are often misdiagnosed with having E.D if the underlying cause of having E.D. is Low T," said Brian Mitchell, a director of specialized marketing at Solvay in Marietta, Ga. "Do we view Viagra as a competitor? No we don't, but the point that E.D. is often a symptom of low testosterone should not be underestimated."

The site is backed by efforts from HealthStar PR in New York.

The budget will likely be modest: Solvay has not committed significant dollars to consumer advertising for Androgel at any point in the last three years, according to Nielsen Monitor-Plus. The company declined to outline its spend.

One of the advantages of taking the unbranded route for Androgel is that the company does not have to warn consumers quite so prominently about Androgel's side effects. They include "prostate enlargement, prostate cancer, and transfer of testosterone to others (including women and children)," according to the company. Mitchell says the drug carries that indication because men in that age group tend to suffer from enlarged prostates anyway, not because of the drug. "There is no documentation any of the issues . . . in the test therapy," he said.

Androgel is the market leader in testosterone therapies with a roughly 57% share, Mitchell said. Solvay recorded 149 million euros in half-year sales of Androgel. In U.S. dollars that number was up 7% on last year, but due to currency weakness represented a 7% decline in euros recorded by the Brussels, Belgium-based company.