“…let’s get Paxil out of mouths and into the garbage, that’s where it belongs…”

That quote is from Cindy, who is the Aunt of a young boy called Manie.

Yep – you guessed it, Manie’s mother, Julie took Seroxat (Paxil) when she was pregnant with Manie. If Glaxo had been quicker to properly warn pregnant women about the risks this might not have happened.

Julie’s new blog is here – big pharma victim – need I say any more?

“I had a normal pregnancy with Manie. I even had a couple of ultrasounds done while I was pregnant with Manie. There were no clues that Manie had a rare heart defect. I had already 3 perfectly healthy kids and did not expect for Manie to be any different.

As soon as Manie was born he began to turn blue. The more he cried the more he turned blue. Our doctor did not know what was wrong with Manie. The doctor thought that it might be his heart or his lungs.

Manie was flown to a hospital an hour and a half away from where we live. I had to stay at the hospital where I had Manie. The doctors called me when Manie arrived and told me Manie had transposition of the great arteries.

I was told that Manie had to have a procedure done to save his life. The doctors went through the artery on the inside of Manie’s right leg. The doctors snaked a balloon all the way through the artery to Manie’s heart. Once the doctors were in Manie’s heart they blew the balloon up and ripped a hole in Manie’s heart.

In the days following the surgery Manie’s leg and foot started to turn a dark purple. The doctors told us that Manie may have to have his leg amputated because the procedure damaged the artery in Manie’s leg.

Right before Manie’s open heart surgery the doctors put Manie on blood thinners. Shortly after putting Manie on blood thinners they were able to detect a pulse in Manie’s foot. Manie kept his leg.”

That’s just the start of Manie’s story – he’s three now and still having to have operations.

Please look in on Julie’s blog and give her and Manie all your support – big pharma victim

Seroxat and the Foetus

Glaxo admits that Seroxat can double the risk of heart defects and other malformations in babies born to Mothers ingesting Seroxat during pregnancy. This has been well documented already and the FDA and MHRA have issued warnings recently about the risks to newborns and the unborn.

Seroxat was also recently reclassified from a category C drug to a category D… Which means it does “officially” pose a significant risk to the foetus…

To find out more, I suggest you read Truthman30′s excellent post about this sensitive issue.

What it’s all about…

Sometimes I forget why I do this, but then I remember, it’s not really about big business, drug marketing and corruption – it’s actually about people – people and their stories.

And you will hear the same stories literally the world over. The experiences are so similar it’s frightening. It doesn’t matter if you’re from London or New York; Birmingham or Melbourne; Dublin or Bahrain – if you have had problems taking, or withdrawing from, an SSRI, then people’s experiences will be all too similar.

And how many of us might suffer?

To begin with, withdrawal was not even mentioned on the early Seroxat PILs. Later when it was mentioned on the PIL, it was rare – 0.2%. Then on 25 June 2003 the PIL was quietly rewritten by Glaxo and withdrawal became a likely issue for 25% of patients. Yes from 0.2% to 25% – overnight.

And today the estimate (on the PIL) stands at “3 out of 10″ – that’s 30%. I wonder what the real figure is?

Here are a couple more stories from the testimony given to the FDA hearings last December in America:

My name is Andy Vickery. I am a trial lawyer from Houston, Texas. Many of the people that you have heard from or will hear from, the victims of SSRI-induced violence and suicide, are my friends and clients. I wish they didn’t have to meet me in that way. I wish that I didn’t have to answer the question for them of where is the justice in the “justice for all” when they have lost someone close to them. I am supposed to compress about twelve year’s worth of my professional life into three minutes today, and I don’t know how to do that really, so let me make as many points as I can.

First, Dr. Clayton is right, do no harm — no harm. Don’t balance that you might maybe do some benefit to someone else — do no harm.

Secondly, I have provided you with a written statement that’s called “Needle in the Haystack.” They are not my words. They are the words of Charles Beasley at Eli Lilly in 1990 when they looked at this, and he said: “If you want to see if this is a real phenomenon, don’t look at the clinical trial data. It’s not there. You won’t find it there. It’s like looking for a needle in a haystack because these trials were not designed to measure it.”

What have you done for the last two years?

You have done precisely that, you have looked for the needle in a haystack, in a place where it is not likely to be in the first place. You have looked at a hundred thousand patients, and you have ignored the millions of patients.

Why do you have a MedWatch system? Why did you abandon some years ago the FDA causality algorithm that was used to assess causality?

Assess causality on these “anecdotes.”

These are not anecdotes, and these deaths are neither significant statistically, Dr. Stone, or otherwise.

Why did you abandon the FDA causality algorithm that you used to assess these events when Dr. Temple and Dr. Laughren started with the FDA?

Because if you take the published literature, if you take Anthony Rothschild’s article in `91 that shows akathisia and suicide, and if you subject it to the causality algorithm that the FDA itself used, it will show that it is highly probable that the akathisia and the suicidality experienced by the three patients that these Harvard psychopharmacologists rechallenged was probably caused by the Prozac. That was 15 years ago. Fifteen years ago when this Committee was summoned, the issue was swept under the rug, and a lot of people have died since then. I wonder, as I read the report, why you have been summoned days before Christmas on short notice this year?

The FDA says the Advisory Committee isn’t even going to be asked for advice. You might ask yourself, Why are we being summoned? Are we being used in some way before the change in the Congress in January? What’s going on here?

(Applause.)

MR. VICKERY: In 1991, this gentleman right here (pointing at Committee member) before he became a paid expert for Pfizer and GSK wrote, “From making the cure more grievous than the disease, good Lord, deliver us.”

You deliver us.

and

I am a little vertically challenged here. Good morning ladies and gentlemen. My name is Kimberly Porto. I have asked my parents Barbara Bedina and Raymond Bedina, and my sister Cara Bedina behind me to join me here at the podium.

On October 9, 2003, my brother Raymond E. Bedina died of Lexapro®-induced suicide after taking Lexapro for only nine days. Ray was just 32 years old when he passed. Those who knew Ray remember his loving, giving personality, his great sense of humor, his warm smile that would take you in and hug you, and his insistence that his friends and his family were more important than anything else. Ray was the kind of brother, son, and friend you felt lucky and proud to have. He was successful at everything he tried. He excelled at his career and he excelled at life. Ray was prescribed Lexapro by his primary care physician for fatigue associated with anxiety. He had no history of depression or any other mental illness.

At the time he was prescribed Lexapro Ray was feeling stressed about work, but only because the current demands of his job were not allowing him to spend as much time with his family and friends as he would like. He was becoming concerned that he hadn’t had the opportunity to settle down and start a family as many of his close friends had at that point in time.

Within a couple of days of starting Lexapro, Ray began to experience very unpleasant side-effects. When his coworkers and friends noticed that he was not himself and not feeling well and asked him what was wrong, he told them that he had recently began talking a new medication called Lexapro and that he felt that it was making him feel ill.

Within five days on Lexapro, I noticed my brother pacing back and forth through my house, uneasy, agitated, and anxious. His hands were shaking. We knew something was wrong. Only in retrospect do we now understand that what he was experiencing was an adverse reaction to the drug Lexapro. The next day Ray told a friend that he thought the Lexapro was making him feel weird, and he had very strange thoughts running through his mind. Within seven days of taking Lexapro, Ray was thinking about suicide. He expressed thoughts about hurting himself.

Two days later, he went to a hotel alone. He never said goodbye to anyone. My sweet, loving brother who had always sought peace and expressed strong views against suicide and violence ended his life by cutting himself with a knife and poisoning himself with pills.

Ray died alone.

I am sure that he was also very scared and very sick. My brother never should have suffered and died that way. Over the past fifteen years, too many tragedies like this have destroyed too many lives. Too many families, like ours, are broken and struggling every day with the pain and anguish of losing a loved one in this horrific manner. My brother and his doctor deserved to know the truth about the suicide risk associated with Lexapro. Had Ray and his doctor been warned that Lexapro can cause the emergency of akathisia and suicide, Ray would be here with us today, and my family wouldn’t have paid the ultimate price for your failure to warn. The American people have a right to know that SSRIs can cause suicide, and that holds true regardless of whether you are age 5 or 75.

We have a right to make informed decisions.

Cymbalta marketing by the back door: re-post

I’m going to keep bringing this little story to everyone’s attention in the hope that I can get a response from Jim Thomson who has been involved in grassroots patient groups for many years. In fact I think that Jim may have taken over as CEO of Depression Alliance from Rodney Elgie. (More on Mr Elgie here)

Also I notice over at Seroxat Sufferers, Bob Fiddaman promises some new developments in this story – see his post here.

So here’s the re-post once again:

I wrote a post recently to bring everyone up to speed about a discussion that had been going buried deep in Seroxat Secrets on the comments section of an older post (if you follow…?)

I’d just like to focus on one point of detail that might help people to understand why I think the way that I do. In another related post, I wrote about a specific booklet that had been produced to support National Depression Week 2005. This campaign was themed ‘Pulling Together’ and was described by the Charity (Depression Alliance) like this: “The 2005 campaign highlights one of the most remarkable and positive aspects of the condition – how people pull together to defeat the illness.”

All well and good. My point – one which I feel I have demonstrated in great detail – is that I think that the booklet had very little to do with ‘Pulling Together’ as described by Depression Alliance and rather more to do with “increasing awareness of the established link between depression and somatic symptoms such as general aches and pains, and to improve recognition among journalists of general aches and pains in depression.”

You can read my critique and see what you think – I was however firmly put in my place by a comment from Jim Thomson, who used to be the CEO of Depression Alliance:

“I apologise for not addressing your point about “Pulling Together” and have just spent time re-reading it (in fact I’m not even sure if i was still with DA when it was published, but I may have been.) I have also been reading your critique of it, which is conspiracy theory of the first water. I doubt I can convince you of this, but I can assure you that the research was undertaken for very different reasons than those you assume.

For some time, many of us working in mental health, had become concerned at how depression was being viewed within the DOH. You might not know that the illness was not even included in the GP GMS contract – effectively dis-incentivising GPs from diagnosing it. You most certainly won’t know that in a recent re-shuffle, there wasn’t even a Minister with responsibility for mental health until I telephoned the DOH and told them than it might be an idea to correct the ommission before I contacted the media. It seems that they “forgot” about mental health.

This de-construction of depression looked to us to be very deliberate. The illness was not (and is still not) classed as an SMI (serious and enduring mental illness – which is where all the DOH funding goes.) This is convenient because if GPs actually diagnosed all of the undiagnosed depression in this country, the NHS would be in worse shape than it already is. The reason GPs don’t diagnose early, is that they often don’t realise that patients are presenting with the physical symptoms of depression.

Again this backdrop, a piece of research was planned, to try to underline that somatic symptoms are (or can be) very much a part of the illness. That was the strategy – it had nothing to do with Cymbalta. You can take my word for that or not – it is immaterial to me because, whether or not it satisfies your concerns, it is the truth. If you want to ake it further, then take the matter up with the ABPI – and before you counter that the ABPI is an industry body, I would remind you that they have suspended, I believe, at least three of their big pharma members in the past year, for the sort of activity you imply.”

As per Jim’s description of the research brief, I’m still a bit hazy as to where the ‘Pulling Together’ concept fits in – you know …”highlights one of the most remarkable and positive aspects of the condition – how people pull together to defeat the illness.”

Also Jim states “That was the strategy – it had nothing to do with Cymbalta. You can take my word for that or not…” In which case I think maybe Jim ought to read this, from the Healthcare PR agency Packer Forbes:

“National Depression Week for Eli Lilly’s/Boehringer Ingelheim’s Cymbalta

National Depression Week is held annually by Depression Alliance, the leading UK charity for people with depression. The 2005 campaign, Pulling Together, which highlighted how people pull together to defeat the illness, was co-sponsored by Lilly and Boehringer Ingelheim.

The aims of the campaign were to achieve increased awareness amongst healthcare professionals and patients of the established link between depression and somatic symptoms such as general aches and pains, and to improve recognition among journalists of general aches and pains in depression.”

Packer Forbes clearly link national Depression Week directly with Cymbalta and clearly state the aims of the campaign.

Packer Forbes worked with Depression Alliance on the research and the campaign for Pulling Together. Packer Forbes also worked for Eli Lilly & Boehringer Ingelheim on the UK launch and marketing of Cymbalta.

Jim may or may not have been CEO of Depression Alliance when this document was actually published, but clearly he was CEO when the booklet (and entire campaign) was being written, designed and approved for production.

So the question remains – why?

Why was the aim to increase awareness of the established link between depression and somatic symptoms such as general aches and pains, and to improve recognition among journalists of general aches and pains in depression?

Maybe – just maybe – because Eli Lilly & Boehringer Ingelheim had Cymbalta to launch and sell in the UK – the first (allegedly) antidepressant/painkiller combo?

Maybe? – or is all this just a conspiracy theory of the first water [sic]

Avandia – “diabetes drug called potential death risk”

There’s a very good post about Avandia over at Aftermath News.

It references the USA Today article “Diabetes drug called potential death risk.”

I know I’m a little behind with this breaking story, but I thought as Glaxo is looking in on Seroxat Secrets quite few times a day, I’d better give it something to think about –

Glaxo, you can run but you can’t hide anymore… the internet is seeing to that.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – pharma’s business model is broken – the science will not let it be sustained any longer. The age of the truly innovative blockbuster drug (and the massive profits) is over – that’s why drug companies continue to market sub-standard products to the public. And that is also the reason why one in every three people who works at Glaxo is in sales and marketing.

This simple fact shows where Big Pharma’s priorities lie – science and discovery have taken a back seat and the salesmen are driving.

Glaxo’s Avandia – exposed much as Vioxx was exposed

Will someone out there please tell me how much longer we are going to have to put up with stories like this?

“A meta-analysis of the clinical trial data shows that GlaxoSmithKline’s diabetes blockbuster, Avandia, increases the risk of heart attacks and cardiovascular related deaths. Once again the FDA is shown to be asleep at the helm-its approved drug label and cannot be trusted to protect the public from unsafe drugs that kill.

Anna Wilde Matthews of The Wall Street Journal reports: “Dr. Nissen started his quest to gather data about Avandia’s risks last year, after he spotted what he thought were hints of trouble in published studies. Along the way, he set congressional investigations into motion, and, last month, hit pay dirt with a Google search that pointed him to a trove of study data. Brushing aside the arguments of Glaxo executives who rushed to Cleveland, he pushed his concerns into one of the world’s top medical journals in just a few weeks.

One issue coming under congressional scrutiny is whether the Food and Drug Administration should have acted faster to alert the public about possible risk from Avandia. Glaxo performed its own meta-analysis, which also showed a potential danger. It shared an early version of it with the FDA in September 2005 and a more complete one in August 2006. The findings weren’t reflected on the U.S. label, which is supposed to give a comprehensive review of the drug’s risks.” About one million Americans-7 million world-wide people-are affected by Avandia whose world-wide sales were above $3 billion.”

The full story can be read at Vera Sharav’s AHRP blogspot.

I note many other news stories about this latest Glaxo safety scare.

GlaxoSmithKline’s shares suffered their biggest one-day fall in four years yesterday as a safety scare engulfed the drug company’s blockbuster diabetes treatment, Avandia.

The US food and drug administration issued a formal alert on Avandia last night, warning doctors to be aware of a study suggesting that the medicine could increase patients’ risk of heart attacks.

The drug is Glaxo’s second biggest seller, behind its asthma treatment Seretide. In London, Glaxo’s stock plunged 81p to £13.83 and in late New York trading, the shares fell by as much as 8%.

Doctors at the Cleveland clinic in Ohio analysed 42 historic clinical trials. They found that those taking Avandia were 43% more likely to have heart attacks – and 64% more prone to die from heart failure – than those on a placebo.

Investors in Glaxo are keenly aware that any hint of a health risk could cause patients to switch to competing products. Two rival firms – Eli Lilly and Merck – saw their shares edge upwards yesterday on hopes that their diabetes drugs would gain from Avandia’s woes.

So Glaxo has unleashed another potentially dangerous drug onto the market – it has to be said that Glaxo’s record isn’t really that good when it comes to producing safe, effective medicines that do not attract controversy and lawsuits once they have been in use for some years.

I written about big pharma and new drug discovery before here and here.

The age of the truly innovative blockbuster drug is over – drug companies know this and so continue to market sub-standard products to the public. This is the reason why we have seen marketing and advertising spend leap ahead of (by two to three times) the R&D spend at every major drug maker in the world.

This simple fact shows where Big Pharma’s priorities lie – science and discovery have taken a back seat and the salesmen are driving.

Pharma TV – drug marketing or patient information? – 5

OK this is getting ridiculous – much more on the ubiquitous Rodney Elgie here. The full article by Sarah Boseley at the Guardian was published just yesterday and can be read here. I’ll just copy a few paragraphs below.

“Drug companies in Europe, faced with declining sales and a shortage of new products, appear to be making ground in their attempt to enlist a major new ally in their struggle for profits – the patient.
Sales soared in the US after companies were allowed to advertise their prescription medicines on TV and radio and in magazines and newspapers. Patients in America began demanding more drugs and specific, expensive brand-name drugs from their doctors. Now the firms want to target the UK in the same way, and are strongly challenging a ban on direct consumer advertising in the EU.

This has been tried before. In 2002, there was an attempt to persuade the European parliament to allow companies to launch “disease awareness campaigns”, which critics believed would encourage people to believe they were sick and lead to demand for new drugs from doctors.

Then, as now, industry was aligned with certain patient groups which it funds.

In 2002, Merck Sharp and Dohme paid for a 30-page supplement distributed with the New Statesman which included full-page adverts backing changes to advertising rules. One was signed by 15 European patient groups coordinated by Rodney Elgie, president of the mental health organisation GAMIAN-Europe.

“What we were advocating … was that one should be free within the necessary checks and balances to secure information from any valid authorised source,” said Mr Elgie.

He rejected criticism from some consumer organisations that patients’ groups are biased by accepting drug company funding: “They employ a perverse logic that because patient groups accept pharmaceutical funding they are automatically in the pockets of drug companies.”

Mr Elgie pointed to the funding behind one of the major consumer groups, HAI – Health Action International. “It has consistently received around 65% of its funding each year from the Dutch government … Yet this is no way affects their judgment on a host of issues. So far as I am aware, no patient group is so beholden to one drug company to such an extent.”

Nobody uses the word “advertising”. All the talk is of allowing pharmaceutical companies to give information direct to patients.

Leading patient groups, and the companies that support them include:

European Patients Forum
The EPF was set up after the European commission said it would prefer to deal with one pan-European organisation representing patients. The EPF’s first president, from launch in January 2003 until 2005, was Rodney Elgie, from the mental health organisation GAMIAN-Europe, who is a central figure in the evolution of patient groups linked to the pharmaceutical industry in Europe. The EPF was strongly criticised for a lack of transparency by the campaigning group Health Action International in July 2005. “European patients are ill-served by a group whose close links to the pharmaceutical industry amount to an enormous risk of conflict of interest,” said Jeremy Smith, author of the HAI report. The EPF at the time did not publish details of its funding. Now it does, and virtually its entire income comes from drug companies.

International Alliance of Patient Organisations
IAPO was set up in 1999 by 38 patient groups with funds from the Pharmaceutical Partners for Better Healthcare, a collaboration of some 40 drug companies. Pharmaceutical Partners closed down that same year, throwing IAPO into serious financial difficulties. Pfizer stepped in with a grant in 2002 to help IAPO develop a strategy for the future. A variety of individual companies have supported it since then. In 2006, drug companies contributed $250,554 (£127,000) out of a total income of $278,755. In 2006, GSK, Pfizer, Medtronic and Novartis were the biggest sponsors, each providing more than $50,000 a year.

GAMIAN-Europe
The Global Alliance of Mental Illness Advocacy Networks was founded by the drug company Bristol Myers Squibb in March 1997, bringing together 12 organisations including Depression Alliance from the UK. GAMIAN-Europe, registered in Belgium, does not detail its funding on its website, apart from acknowledging drug company grants for specific projects. It told the Guardian that nearly half (45%) of its €234,000 (£160,000) income in 2006 came from Eli Lilly, manufacturers of Prozac. Other antidepressant makers also contributed. Lundbeck sponsorship was 26% of the group’s income, Pfizer 11%, GlaxoSmithKline 6% and Wyeth 1%. Just 2% came from membership subscriptions”.

Not Depression Alliance again.

Of course Depression Alliance had nothing to do with the launch and marketing of Cymbalta in the UK… of course not. For more on Depression Alliance see here and here.

Pharma TV – drug marketing or patient information? – 4

Will this thread never stop?????

So, Seroxat Sufferers dug around a bit and found out some information about the European Patients’ Forum.

I noticed one of the members of the EPF is Gamian – Global Alliance of Mental Illness Advocacy Networks, the contact is listed as one Rodney Elgie…

Rodney Elgie is also mentioned in Charles Medawar’s excellent piece which was published as a briefing for Members of the European Parliament on direct to consumer drug marketing.

It seems that Mr Elgie has a long history working with patient advocate groups and drug companies – a short biography was included in Charles Medawar’s paper:

“Biographical data published alongside a 1998 article Elgie wrote for Pfizer Forum reads as follows: “Rodney Elgie has been an attorney in private practice more than twenty years, rising to the position of senior partner. He became a member of Depression Alliance in 1992, and served on the Charity’s Executive Committee as the honorary legal advisor. He was appointed the first full-time Executive Director of Depression Alliance in early 1995 and spearheaded the dramatic growth in both the membership of the charity and its self-help groups. He has overseen the creation of regional offices in Wales and Scotland and the appointment of numerous full and part-time members. Rodney is currently the Chairman of the National Depression Campaign in the UK and serves on numerous Committees within the mental health field. He is a Task Force Member of the newly created International Association of Patient Organizations and a key member of Gamian Europe. He speaks at conferences throughout Europe and is particularly interested in the development of truly patient-centred care by instituting training sessions for health professionals and users.” (www.pfizerforum.com/authors/elgiebio.shtml) Elgie was struck off the Roll of Solicitors for reckless and dishonest handling of clients’ funds (Findings and Order of the Solicitors’ Disciplinary Tribunal, Case no 5905/1990/4817, 19 Feb 1991).”

Just don’t start me off on Depression Alliance – see here, here, here and here.

In the New Statesman 7 August 2006, Rodney Elgie was quoted as saying “One of the key influences for me is the information and education of patients. We have been battling long and hard with the European Commission to get information to patients”.

Educating patients… Isn’t that the drug companies’ euphemism for Direct to Consumer Advertising?

Pharma TV – drug marketing or patient information? – 3

So – just when I think I’m breaking new ground…

I’ve written about direct to consumer advertising a few times this year here, here and here. I don’t know why I bothered really!

Charles Medawar at Social Audit has written the definitive piece on the subject – and he wrote it 2001. You can see it here at Social Audit. This really is an excellent piece which was in fact published as a briefing for Members of the European Parliament on DIRECT-TO-CONSUMER DRUG PROMOTION:

“There is clear and worrying evidence that European patient organisations are coming to resemble their counterparts in the USA. The industry has gone to great and sometimes improper lengths to get patient organisations on side – sweetening them to an extent that might be expected to diminish fairness, integrity, transparency and healthy competition.

· The National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) – “a grassroots organisation of individuals with brain disorders and their family members” – received $11.72 million from 18 Pharma companies, between 1996 and mid-1999. NAMI’s leading donor was Eli Lilly, maker of Prozac. They gave £2.87 million during that period. (Silverstein, 1999)

· “The drug companies have also spent millions over the past decade to create seemingly independent groups that promote their agenda. Last year, the industry trade group created Citizens for Better Medicare, which has been waging a $50 million advertising campaign against a government-controlled prescription drug benefit. And lobbying records show that the drug companies are major backers of the Alliance for Better Medicare, which describes itself as ‘a coalition of nearly 30 organizations representing seniors, patients, medical researchers and innovators, doctors, hospitals, small businesses and others’.” (Gerth & Stolberg, 2000)

· “As chairman of the Danish Migraine Association, I often stand up and tell the media and my fellow chairmen of other patient organisations that we have to be extremely careful in order not to be in effect advertising organs for the medical industry. When the Danish Migraine Association refused to take industry ‘assistance’ to write and print the magazine, organise the lectures and generally run the association, the industry, generously assisted by the research doctors, literally created a new patient organisation as a substitute for the Migraine Association in 1996. This was a bit too blatant to be generally accepted among informed patients and opinion makers, but only because we did not accept the situation gracefully, and made the press aware of our situation. I still hear about patient organisations that are literally being taken over, and who do not even understand what goes on. Luckily we have a growing awareness about the problem.” (Bulow-Olsen, 2000)

· “A pharmaceutical company will tomorrow break new ground by encouraging the public to demand that the NHS pay to make available one of its drugs. The campaign, Action for Access, is funded by Biogen and organised by a PR company on its behalf. It will urge multiple sclerosis sufferers to demand their health authorities agree to prescribe beta-interferon on the NHS, a very expensive drug, which can help some sufferers, but not all.” (Boseley, 1999)

· In 1999, the UK-based Patients Association joined forces with Pharmacia and Upjohn (P&U) in a prototype DTC television campaign aimed at “raising awareness” about urinary incontinence. The TV commercials mentioned no brand name, but encouraged patients to see their doctor. Those who did stood a good chance of being prescribed the leading and most heavily promoted brand, Detrusitol (tolterodine, P&U). However, tolterodine is relatively ineffective. It would probably not help most users much more than a placebo, and non-drug treatments would often be preferable. P&U had also repeatedly attracted criticism for misleading advertising, notably in the USA. Between 1998 and 2000, P&U received five warning letters from the US Food & Drug Administration. In the two most recent, the company was taken to task for making headline claims about the “selectively” of its product – suggesting that it acted on the bladder, with less drying-up effects in the mouth. P&U evidence was based not on clinical trials, but on studies with cats. In the UK, the company resisted regulatory pressure for over a year. The Patients Association became aware of this too late: they had already supported the TV campaign and accepted a large donation from P&U. In turn, they said a nice thank-you to the company and gave it one of their ‘Platinum Awards’.”

Pharma TV – drug marketing or patient information? – 2

In my previous post about Pharma TV, I wrote: “The TV pilot was welcomed by the European Patients’ Forum. The forum, an umbrella group, is one of only two patient organisations admitted to the working group set up by the commission to discuss changes in the rules.

Although its executive director, Nicola Bedlington, said the pilot’s “slightly sanctimonious and patronising” tone needed improvement, she and other patient representatives present approved it in principle”.

I’ll bet she approved it in principle… please go to Seroxat Sufferers to find out more about the wonderful European Patients’ Forum…

I’m sure that the more cynical amongst you will think that the EPF is just another drug company trojan horse – big pharma wants direct to patient advertising in Europe and the EPF will help it to achieve that end.

You might think that… I couldn’t possibly comment…

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