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Advil PM v. Tylenol PM Ad is Misleading

This has been bugging me for a long time, but recently I saw another one of these “advil PM versus tylenol PM” commercials, so I am going to finally write about it!

First of all, the commercial is basically a “why Advil PM is so much better” ad. It talks about how the person taking tylenol PM isn’t getting as good of a sleep as the person taking advil PM, and it shows the person on tylenol tossing and turning while the advil taker snoozing peacefully.


What’s wrong with this picture? Several:

1. They are different drugs. Advil is ibuprofen, an NSAID. Tylenol is acetaminophen, which works on pain by a different pathway. Both work for pain, and both have their advantages and disadvantages as pain killers.

2. But is Advil focusing on this fact – PAIN? NO! Advil is now talking about sleep! All right then, let’s look at the ingredients for sleep. It is basically the same ingredient as Benadryl. The exact same ingredient in both. But I thought I was watching a commercial for a pain killer drug. And instead of focusing on the key indication (pain), the Advil ad focuses on the side indication (sleep).

3. Fine. So why does Tylenol’s sleep aid work less better than Advil’s sleep aid even when both offer THE SAME SLEEP AID? Simple answer: Advil puts more Benadryl (38 mg) in its combo med. OK more accurately, “the active ingredient in Benadryl”.

So it’s not because Tylenol’s sleep drug is less effective, it’s not because Tylenol PM uses an inferior or less effective sleep drug than Advil.

It’s because Tylenol has less (25 mg) of the same sleep drug as Advil.

[On a personal note, Benadryl’s regular dosage is 25 mg, which already makes me feel completely drowsy and dried up. I don’t need an extra 13 mg of antihistamine to make me sleepier!]

This commercial annoys me because it exemplifies what is wrong with many commercials on TV relating to meds. They dupe consumers by playing with words and making apples-to-oranges comparisons, instead of true head-to-head comparisons.

Come on, Pfizer (maker of Advil), you can spend millions of bucks on a better commercial!

Updated: June 30, 2013 — 8:05 am

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