No Free Lunch glossary

Another extract from the No Free Lunch website:

“Astroturfing” This is term describe how Pharma Companies use and support patient groups. Get your message across by using a charity- great credibility.

“Neo drug” A drug pretending to be different from its preceding version. Faster acting, less sedating that sort of thing. This claims are generally complete cobblers.

“Evergreening” Your highly profitable drug is coming off patent and cheaper generic versions can made. Oh no, we stand to lose millions. Never fear, shortly before patent expiry the company produces the “neo” drug. This is faster acting and 5% cheaper. The company therefore suggests switching all current patients on to the “neo” drug. When the original drugs loses the patent protection, all patients are now on the “neo” drug. Hurrah, another decade of inflated costs to the NHS.

“Me Too” This is a product that we already have effective versions of in the market eg new Statin or a new antihistamine. The motivation is to get a cut of the big money action.

“Switching” This activity involves offering to switch all patients onto the company’s medication. This “switching” is paid for by the industry and patients consent is not sought. This happens all the time with the “neo” products and is part of evergreening activity.

“Publication Bias” Consider 10 studies of which 5 show a positive result and 5 a negative result for a drug. Supress negative results and publish 5 positive studies. A wonder drug is born. We have no trial obligatry registration ,therefore, companies potentially publish the studies that they want.

“Trial Registration” We campaign for trial registration so that we can limit positive publication bias.

“Regulatory Capture” The concept that the regulators are so close to the industry that they are unable to regulate the industry.


5 Responses to “No Free Lunch glossary”

  1. Matthew Holford Says:

    Ah, yes, the great success of the marketing fraternity in the modern world: the triumph of packaging over content!


  2. Matthew Holford Says:

    Actually, on the subject of “publication bias”, I imagine we’ve all noticed by now how those that ask unanswerable questions (in the sense that no answer may be manufactured, which does not make things look bad) get ignored, or an answer given, which does not address the question.

    I visited John Redwood’s Diary, and post a relatively brief account in response to a complaint he wrote about the erosion of freedoms. It was deleted, whereupon I savoured the irony!


  3. Matthew Holford Says:

    Anyway, I don’t know if GSK is typical, but it may be an indication of the bias within the industry to note that 40% of its (GSK’s) workforce is in sales and marketing. My own experience of humanity is that people are only interested in an issue, not because of the wider impact on society that it has, but solely based upon the immediate impact that it has on their lives.

    Now, if your average MP, let’s say, is not involved in the scrutiny of the drugs industry, then it is much easier for him/her to not become involved, which, in turn, permits him/her to continue to believe that the problem lies with those complaining (who are, typically, a minority, and not influential), rather than investigate the criticism on face value, and realize that the very system being complained of flourishes through this kind of selective acceptance of what is true, possible prejudice towards those rattling the cage, and the “blind eye” approach that appears to be adopted by so many.

    Moreover, by turning a blind eye, such a person becomes part of the system, which is being complained of, because while it is claimed that men of honour would not engage in such dubious activities, we know enough to understand that self-regulation has not worked.


    PS What kind of things may one complain to the Parliamentary watchdog about? We should test how robust its system is.

  4. Matthew Holford Says:

    You may want to amuse yourself with a quick read through The Code of Practice for the Pharmaceutical Industry 2006 (, which I’ve just had a quiet chuckle over. I regret to report that “efficacy”, “safety” and “quality” are still not defined, dealing as it does with marketing standards, although if you flick straight to section 7.9, your efforts will be rewarded with a good laugh, I imagine.

    It’s probably worth trundling through that document with a fine tooth comb, because I’m confident that somebody who reads these pages will be able to identify a transgression of these completely voluntary and unenforceable rules. We should probably ‘mail a copy to every GP, too. Hmm, I wonder if the ABPI sends a copy out to GPs, when it gets revised, each year?


  5. seroxat secrets… Charities and their good works - continued « Says:

    […] this post here and this one here to learn about ‘astroturfing’. Posted in Drug Marketing, […]

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