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.

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.” ( 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…

Watching you watching me

During the last week, I thought I’d try some analysis of vistors to my blog (thanks to Bob Fiddaman for the title of this post).

It’s been an interesting exercise to monitor the traffic for the last 7 days – I’ve had a few visits from the ‘great and the good’ in amongst my 800 or so daily hits.

In amongst all the familiar names to you, you’ll perhaps see some companies you’re not so familiar with – these will probably be the Ad agencies and PR firms that work for pharmaceutical clients.

Seroxat Secrets corporate visitors 15-22 May 2007
Abbott Laboratories, Gurnee, Illinois
Allegiance Healthcare, Waukegan, Illinois
Aventis Pharamceuticals, New Jersey
Bausch & Lomb, Rochester, New York
Biogen, West Roxbury, Massachusetts
Boehringer Ingelheim Limited, Egham, Slough
Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, Connecticut
Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, Copenhagen
Burson Marsteller, New York
Capital One Financial, Richmond, Virginia
Church of Scientology International, Los Angeles, California
Collective Intellect, Boulder, Colorado
Edelman PR, New York
Edelman, London
Eli Lilly and Company, Europe
Eli Lilly and Company, Indianapolis, Indiana
Evergreen Medical Group, Kirkland, Washington
Experian Information Solutions, Roswell, Georgia
Foote, Cone & Belding , New York
Forest Labs, New Hyde Park, New York
Glaxo, Raleigh, North Carolina
Hikma Pharmaceuticals, Amman, Jordan
Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority, Chicago
Johnson & Johnson, New Jersey
Kaiser Permanente, El Cerrito, California
King & Spalding, Washington DC
LNS Communications, Brookline, Massachusetts
McCann-Erickson, London
McCann-Erickson/Torre Lazur, Denville, New Jersey
Meta Pharmaceutical Services LLC, Conshohocken, Pennsylvania
Microsoft Corp, United States
National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland
Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough, Columbia, South Carolina
Performance Systems International, Toronto, Ontario
Pfizer, New York
Pfizer, United Kingdom
Porter Novelli, New York
Sanofi Techniques, Bourg-la-Reine, France
SmithKline Beecham, Ickenham, Slough, United Kingdom
The Procter and Gamble Company, Cincinnati, Ohio
Trinity Mirror Group, London
Warner-Lambert Company, Morris Plains, New Jersey

I’m sorry if I’ve I’ve left anyone out, but I’m sure you understand it takes time to separate the wheat from the chaff. I’d like to thank everyone for visiting Seroxat Secrets and I hope that each and every one of you learn something new when you log on.

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