Charities and their good works…

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 antidepressant/painkiller combo?

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

3 Responses to “Charities and their good works…”

  1. Matthew Holford Says:

    Hey,

    Does Jim read these pages, then? Perhaps we could get a dialogue going (which’d be nice, seeing as nobody else seems comfortable entering into an extended correspondence)?

    Anyway, given Jim’s expertise in the area, I’d be quite interested to understand how it is that one differentiates between the aches and pains associated with lack of physical fitness (for example), and those associated with depression. That is, is there a risk that GPs start mis-diagnosing depression, when somebody has that horrible achy feeling one gets sometimes with a cold virus?

    Also, given that GPs are necessarily experts in this area, should they really be handing out drugs on such modest evidence. Should they even be entrusted with diagnosing mental health issues, at all.

    Finally, what does Jim think that depression is caused by? Is it genetic, or some other cover-all, which requires absolutely no explanation, and brooks no criticism?

    Matt

  2. seroxat secrets… Cymbalta - a correction « Says:

    […] Charities and their good works… […]

  3. seroxat secrets… Pharma TV - drug marketing or patient information? - 5 « Says:

    […] and marketing of Cymbalta in the UK… of course not. For more on Depression Alliance see here and here. Posted in Patient Groups, ABPI, Drug Marketing, Big […]


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