by Rich Broderick | 6/2/09 • Controversy has broken out over Merck Pharmaceuticals’ heavily promoted new prescription drug “Sitztilaty,” which the company claims is an effective treatment for “Restless Boy Syndrome," a recently identified disorder affecting pre- and early-adolescent males.
Since its introduction early in April, commercials for Sitztilaty have played in nearly continuous rotation on TV and radio stations. Merck has also taken out multiple-page inserts in publications aimed at family practice physicians, as well as women’s and family magazines like _Good Housekeeping_, _TV Guide_, and _Real Life_.
In addition, the company has distributed large quantities of samples of the drug. Though the company will not reveal how many, industry analysts estimate that as many as 1 million doses of Sitztilaty have been delivered directly to doctor’s offices throughout the U.S. or were given out to physicians attending a weeklong Merck-sponsored “Sit in the Sun Awhile with Sitztilaty” research symposium that took place in Bermuda just prior to the drug’s roll-out.
A typical commercial for the prescription shows a video montage of an American family with clips of 12-year-old boys skateboarding in a driveway while ignoring repeated calls from a parent to come in and wash up for dinner, a 13- or 14-year-old male rocking rapidly back and forth in time to the unheard music on an iPod, and a slightly older boy, legs bouncing as he sits at a desk, picking up and flinging down a copy of an algebra textbook over and over again. A female voiceover then asks “Does this look familiar? Studies show that ten out of ten males between the ages of 12 and 16 suffer from Restless Boy Syndrome, a serious disorder that leads to daydreaming, backtalk, inattention to parental lectures, and long periods absorbed in episodes of _Family Guy_ or _Jackass_ on the Internet. Fortunately, there’s a new treatment that’s proven effective for counteracting the nerve-wracking symptoms of Restless Boy Syndrome – Sitztilaty. From Merck.”
Critics of Sitztilaty claim that Restless Boy Syndrome isn’t a genuine medical condition but a disorder fabricated by Merck-funded researchers for the purposes of creating a market for the drug.
But the lead investigator on last year’s ground-breaking “Restless Boy Syndrome Study” denies these accusations. “Any parent who’s had to live through a teenage boy’s adolescent years knows they can’t possibly be considered normal,” said Dr. Philip Dellacourt, Eli Lilly Chair of Psychopharmacology at the Merck Institute of Medical Research at the University of Minnesota-Pfizer. “You ever hang around with some 13 year-old guys at a local park? I’m telling you – they’re freakin’ insane!”
Dellacourt also unequivocally dismisses concerns about the objectivity of his work. “Anyone who believes that our research might in any way be tainted by funding sources is clearly suffering from a bad case of Skeptical Consumer Disorder and should seek immediate help,” he said.
As for concerns some consumer advocates have raised about possible side effects, Merck spokesperson, Catherine diMedici, says that when used as intended the drug poses no threat. “Sitztilaty should always be taken under a doctor’s care and only then from the time a boy turns 12 until he reaches manhood and switches to Elavil,” she said.
According to the company, typical side effects of Sitzilaty are moderate and rarely life threatening. They may include acne, mood swings, compulsive masturbation, sleeping in late, chore-related temporary dementia, excessive texting, failure to show proper respect for elders and, in rare cases, an insolent smirk that can last from four hours up to several days and may require a doctor’s attention to wipe it off the victim’s face.
“There may have been one or two cases of Terminal Smirk associated with Sitztilaty,” diMedici says, “but there certainly haven’t been any reported by the company!”