One of last year’s Bitter Pill Awards honorees, Lunesta, has the dubious distinction of having the most recalled and most remembered drug ads on TV, according to IAG Research.

In 2006, we gave Lunesta and Ambien our “While You Were Sleeping Award: For Overmarketing Insomnia Medications to Anyone who’s ever had a Bad Night’s Sleep.” At the time Sepracor was topping the charts in Direct-to-Consumer Advertising spending for drug companies, in an aggressive push to gain market share over Ambien and Ambien CR.

The ubiquitous “Luna Moth” ads have become the archetype of current drug ads, lulling the critical faculties of viewers into a slumber, and making even the deepest sleeper wonder if they should Ask Their Doctor about Lunesta.

Lunesta’s sales growth has been hampered by Ambien going generic (reports of sleep-eating, sleep-walking, and sleep-driving notwithstanding) and by competition from the latest entry into the prescription sleep drug market, Rozerem. So what does the forward-thinking company do in the face of lagging sales? Why, raise the price, of course! Yes, Ed Silverman at Pharmalot reports that Sepracor has raised the price of Lunesta 9%, on top of an earlier 9% price hike in November.

Further, Sepracor continues to violate PhRMA’s “Guiding Principles on Direct to Consumer Advertisements About Prescription Medicines,” specifically Principle 10, which states that:

DTC television advertising that identifies a product by name should clearly state the health conditions for which the medicine is approved and the major risks associated with the medicine being advertised.

Sepracor continues to run so-called “reminder ads” for Lunesta, those brief spots which say the name of the drug but nothing else about it. Such ads are designed to increase name recognition, much in the same way that lawn signs and bumper stickers do for electoral candidates. Since they don’t say anything about what the drug is used for, under FDA regulations, they aren’t required to list the major side effects and other information we see in full drug ads.

What has PhRMA done about such violations, which they have been repeatedly informed of? N o one knows, since their report on the first year of the Guiding Principles and “comments” they received from consumers named no names and was widely considered to be a whitewash.

(Speaking of Ambien’s now-famous side effects: As is the case so often on matters of importance, perhaps the most thoughtful commentary on sleep drugs and their risks is, of course, from the Simpsons:)