The Drug Pushers – “Love that Aropax smile”

I often write about drug marketing and the way big pharma operates. Regular readers will perhaps have picked up that I’m not a fan.

In Australia – see this post over at Seroxat Sufferers – Glaxo has used its ‘support’ of Comic Relief in recent years to help in its sales of Australian Seroxat – Aropax:

“…GlaxoSmithKline, whose campaign of support for Comic Relief has some similarities to its advertising for one of Australia’s top-selling anti-depressant drugs.

“Love that Aropax smile,” reads a six-page fold-out ad that appeared in doctors’ news magazines at the end of last year. It is trimmed in bright orange and features a formerly depressed mother joking with an orange segment in her mouth, and her giggling, orange-clad daughter.

Earlier this year [2002] the company took out ads in the same publications, touting its $200,000 donation to Comic Relief and announcing a fund-raising program in which its drug sales people would visit doctors dressed as clowns.

The notices bore no direct reference to Aropax, but nevertheless had an orange backdrop and they continued the smiling theme. “We’re dropping in to make you smile for a very worthy cause,” the company explained.

GlaxoSmithKline Australia’s commercial director, Lisa Bonadonna, said the Comic Relief sponsorship was not a promotion for Aropax. The similarity between the advertisements’ colours and copy was “completely unintentional”.

But doctors’ groups say they are increasingly concerned at the style and scale of drug companies’ marketing as they channel funds previously used to wine and dine the medical community into direct and indirect promotions.

So Glaxo make a contribution of what amounts to loose change for them and then they try and promote their product on the back of it. No connection.

Yeah, right Lisa.


One Response to “The Drug Pushers – “Love that Aropax smile””

  1. truthman30 Says:

    The similarity between the advertisements’ colours and copy was “completely unintentional”.

    Yeah Yeah…

    Coincidence was it?…

    Just like Mr Sneeze back in 2003?…

    Mr Sneeze in drug row

    The book promotes anti-allergy drugs
    A children’s book which appears to promote anti-allergy medicines is to be investigated by a government watchdog.
    The book – called “Mr Sneeze and his allergies” – looks like any other book in the popular Mr Men series.

    However, unlike those books, it includes two pages promoting the use of anti-allergy drugs manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline.

    The book, which was paid for by GSK, has sparked concerns over how far pharmaceutical companies should be allowed to go in passing on information to patients.

    Summer sneezes

    The book was written by Adam Hargreaves, whose father Roger created the Mr Men series.

    It tells how Mr Sneeze starts to sneeze “in the middle of summer”. His friend Little Miss Sunshine suggests he may have hayfever.

    We are 100% confident that the book abides by all of the regulations
    GSK spokeswoman
    This prompts Mr Sneeze to plough the grass and remove the flowers and plants in the valley outside his house.

    But this fails to stop him sneezing. With the help of Miss Sunshine they discover that he is allergic to the feathers in his pillow.

    However, Mr Sneeze then receives a visit from Mr Silly and his pet chicken Rover which causes him to start sneezing again. He starts to sneeze again.

    The story is followed by four pages of information on allergies from Allergy UK and two pages promoting the use of GSK products Piriteze and Piriton.

    Muriel Symmons, who chairs the charity, said they provided the information after being approached by a public relations company which works with GSK.

    “We were actually quite delighted to provide this information. We provide information to lots of organisations. We did not receive any money for it,” she told BBC News Online.

    “However, we are not wildly happy with the pages on Piriton and Piriteze.”

    The charity has sent copies of the book to allergy clinics across the country and further copies upon request to some doctors.

    “One doctor asked us to send more copies but asked if we would mind if they removed the pages promoting the drugs. We said we did not.”

    Watchdog concerned

    The government watchdog, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, said it would investigate the book.

    In a statement, it said: “The Medicines Act of 1994 prohibits the promotion of medicines to children.

    “The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency is unaware of this book and will investigate urgently.”

    The Proprietary Association of Great Britain, which is responsible for checking marketing material from pharmaceutical companies, backed its decision to approve the book.

    “We felt it was very good in terms of public health. It is not easy to give this type of information to children and it seemed a very good way of doing that,” a spokeswoman told BBC News Online.

    She added that the book was sent out to parents with a letter. The letter advised them to remove the pages referring to the GSK products before giving it to children.

    “On that basis, we felt the book should be made available,” the spokeswoman said.

    GSK said the book did not break any rules.

    “We are 100% confident that the book abides by all of the regulations, ” a spokeswoman said.

    “This book has been in the domain for some time now and we have not received any complaints about it.”

    She defended the decision to include information on the anti-allergy products.

    Over 50,000 copies of the book have been printed this year and many were sent to holders of Tesco clubcards.

    Others have been distributed through allergy road shows held at supermarkets across the UK.

    And a little similar to the sensodyne controversy too in February 2006….

    Monitoring by BCAP resulted in ads by two toothpaste manufacturers being adjudicated on by the ASA and withdrawn because of the way they used recommendations by dentists.

    Two ads, one impression

    GlaxoSmithKline ran one ad at the beginning of a commercial break and another towards the end. The first ad featured a dentist who said “Patients who are suffering from sensitivity are delighted to hear that they can treat their problem by something as simple as changing their toothpaste. There is a range available which, if used like any normal toothpaste, will reduce the sensitivity and in many cases cut it out altogether.” The ad ended with the text “Ask your dentist about sensitive teeth” appearing on the screen, followed by the GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare logo.
    In a commercial later in the break, a woman says to camera “I have sensitive teeth … It just continually got worse I thought I have to got to go to a dentist.” On-screen text stating “What did her dentist recommend?” appeared. The woman said “Use a toothpaste for sensitive teeth and I thought that’s quite easy so I might as well give it a go. Use Sensodyne two times a day and you can really feel the difference”.
    The Monitoring team picked up the ads, identified a breach of the TV Code and discussed it with the BACC, which had cleared the ads for broadcast. The BACC did not agree with BCAP’s interpretation of the Code so the team put the matter to the ASA Council, which is responsible for ruling on potential breaches of the Codes.

    And of course the biggest joke of all ..

    GlaxoSmithKline, the second-largest food and drug company in the world, was yesterday fined $217,500 in the Auckland District Court after it admitted 15 breaches of the Fair Trading Act.
    The case was brought by the Commerce Commission after a science experiment in 2004 by 14-year-old Pakuranga College schoolgirls Jenny Suo and Anna Devathasan raised questions about the vitamin C content in Ribena.
    They were last night fielding media calls from around the world.
    The Guardian newspaper in Britain and the CNN network were among the interested parties.
    “It’s just amazing here. People at school have been wondering what all the cameras have been here for,” Jenny said.
    “It’s incredible to think you can have this sort of impact as a consumer and as a kid.”

    The girls were at the court yesterday when GlaxoSmithKline admitted the charges, and they heard the company and the Commerce Commission put their arguments about the fines.
    However, they were unable to hear the sentence handed down as Judge Phil Gittos decided at noon that he needed 3½ hours to consider his sentence.
    “It’s a shame, because it’s drama production week at college,” Jenny said.
    Jenny and Anna decided to look at vitamin C content in juice for the Manukau Institute of Technology science fair because “we were both going through a juice phase”.
    Jenny said the Ribena ready-to-drink product was one of the first of the juice products they checked the results for.
    “We just couldn’t believe it. We thought we must have done it wrong,” she said.
    “We tested it another 10 times, and tested the syrup as well. The other products all came up with more vitamin C than they said, but not Ribena.”
    They took their results to Ribena, but had little feedback.
    They were not too impressed by an invitation from GlaxoSmithKline to visit once the commission case began “to say thank you for bringing it to their attention”, and even less impressed by the company’s efforts to have the fine set at $60,000.

    The company was ordered to place half-page corrective advertisements in two Saturday editions of major newspapers over the next four weeks.
    The offences covered advertisements between 2002 and 2006 that misled the public about the vitamin C content in two types of the drink.

    GlaxoSmithKline admitted its cartoned ready-to-drink Ribena, which it claimed had 7mg of vitamin C per 100ml, had no detectable vitamin C content.

    The company also admitted it may have misled customers in advertisements saying the blackcurrants in Ribena syrup had four times the vitamin C of oranges.

    Commerce Commission chairwoman Paula Rebstock said she was pleased with the sentence.
    The marketing of “healthy” products was an important issue for consumers.
    “We are very happy with the overall results.
    “We have made bogus health claims a priority of the commission.
    “Consumers are increasingly concerned about these health claims. Health products do carry a price premium.”

    The Ribena brand would be heavily damaged by the case and corrective measures, which would be more costly than any fine, Rebstock said.

    University of Canterbury marketing and management lecturer Kevin Voges said the incident would leave the reputation of marketers “quite damaged”.
    “If you are making false claims, it is not a particularly good look,” he said.

    Some marketers were less ethical than others, but most were trustworthy as credibility was a large part of marketing a product, Voges said.
    “I think there is a certain amount of exaggeration, but obviously making these sorts of statements with no justification at all is not good at all,” he said.
    Consumers’ Institute head David Russell felt yesterday’s court decision showed the system was working.
    “The consumer isn’t able to lab test these sorts of things themselves, but the authorities can,” he said.

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