Depression Alliance – clumsy conflicts of interest once again?

It looks like Depression Alliance (DA) is up to its old tricks again… I have written about DA in the past and criticised the part it played in the marketing of Cymbalta in the UK.

In the case of Cymbalta, the medical PR agency, Packer Forbes, worked with DA on the research and campaign for DA’s annual ‘depression awareness week’ in 2005 – which was funded by Eli Lilly & Boehringer Ingelheim. Packer Forbes also worked for Eli Lilly & Boehringer Ingelheim on the UK launch and marketing of new drug Cymbalta. You can read about it here and here.

In essence the 2005 research for National Depression Week discovered that a major problem in depression was managing the associated “general aches and pains” that come with the condition. At the time Cymbalta was being marketed as an antidepressant with added [not proven] painkilling qualities.

That was a handy coincidence, wasn’t it?

This from Packer Forbes’ website at the time:

Consumer Media Campaign
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.

– Total campaign circulation achieved: 21,569,796
– Within two months the survey report had been downloaded by more than 3,600 visitors to the Depression Alliance website
– In depth coverage by Dr Rob Hicks on Classic FM
– Further national coverage in the Times and on BBC1

So, on to DA’s annual ‘depression awareness week’ 2008. The theme that was developed for DA was The Inside Story: the impact of depression on daily life.

The press release for this year’s ‘awareness week’ finishes like this:

The report also looked at the general impact of depression on daily life and low energy was highlighted as the most distressing aspect of their depression in 75% of cases. A large majority of respondents (83%) stated that their work is adversely affected by poor quality of sleep, helping contribute to over a third (40%) being forced to lose their job.

“Sleep disturbance can have a major impact in people with depression, and this data also highlights the importance of healthcare professionals and patients working in partnership to manage their depression in a way that will not negatively impact on their sleep” concluded Emer O’Neill, Chief Executive at Depression Alliance

So sleep disturbance is a MAJOR problem for people with depression and it is important that depression is managed in way that will not negatively impact on sleep. This is IMPORTANT NEW information coming from Depression Alliance “the leading UK charity for people with depression”.

So it must be true…?

This year DA has been working with Athena Medical PR on the research and campaign for the ‘awareness week’. On the cover of the 12 page Report issued along with the ‘awareness week’ we discover another ‘partner’ The development of this survey and the report into its findings were undertaken in partnership with and funded by Servier Laboratories Limited.

Interestingly, French company Servier, makes Valdoxan (agomelatine) which is an antidepressant, but with added qualities. Says Servier “the drug’s unique profile could make it an exciting and innovative product, but it will face stiff competition from top-selling antidepressants already established in the market… As well as treating the main symptoms of depression, the drug also helps to improve daytime alertness by normalising the timing and continuity of sleep, a problem that Servier says is common in patients.

That’s handy. So Valdoxan could be just the thing patients need – as the new survey from Depression Alliance has discovered that sleep disturbance is a real problem. But hold on, The development of this survey and the report into its findings were undertaken in partnership with and funded by Servier Laboratories Limited.

That’s a bit of a coincidence isn’t it?

And here’s another coincidence – Servier Laboratories this week [02 March 2006] confirmed the UK agency support behind its new anti-depressant, Valdoxan. Athena Medical PR secured the contract to steer the brand to market. The drug is the French firm’s first foray into the UK mental health arena, with Valdoxan poised to enter the controversial and crowded market ‘during 2007’.

Valdoxan combines antidepressant efficacy with ‘favourable’ side effects – it has the additional benefit of sleep regulation in depressive patients, according to data unveiled last year.


So in 2005 we had Depression Alliance research and report, Packer Forbes, Eli Lilly & Boehringer Ingelheim, new drug Cymbalta & “general aches and pains”.

In 2008 we have Depression Alliance research and report, Athena Medical PR, Servier Laboratories, new drug Valdoxan and “sleep disturbance”.


I’m sure that most, if not all, of the GPs in the UK were sent the research and reports (as if) from Depression Alliance. I’m also sure that Lilly and Servier drug reps will have relied on the same research and reports to help sell their product.

If you want to go further back into the history of Depression Alliance and the various individuals connected to the organisation then I suggest you read here and here and here and here.

One last point – in the case of this year’s research and report, the findings were based on only 288 replies…

5 Responses to “Depression Alliance – clumsy conflicts of interest once again?”


    Oh dear. I suspect the CEO will get in a cafuffle when reading this and probably link me to it.

    Good work Mr. Admin

    Perhaps DA can get Jeremey Bryce working for them?


  2. truthman30 Says:

    The Inside Story Survey was supported by Servier Laboratories Ltd, in association with
    Depression Alliance.

    Date of preparation: April 2008

    Enough said..

  3. truthman30 Says:

    Controlled studies with humans have shown that agomelatine is comparable to paroxetine in treatment of major depression.

    (Well that’s comforting isn’t it?
    “comparable to paroxetine”
    Paroxetine being Seroxat-Paxil , the most infamous defective and dangerous drug of the past decade)

    The major concern was that efficacy had not been sufficiently shown. The CHMP had no special concerns about the side effects.[3] As of November 2007 (estimated) Servier has resubmitted Agomelatine to the EMEA and their opinion is currently under consideration.[4]
    In 2006 Servier sold the rights to develop Agomelatine in the US to Novartis.[5] According to the pipeline page on, the company plans to file a New Drug Application (NDA) for agomelatine (AGO178) with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2008. [6]

    “The survey was designed to investigate a range of issues including
    work, quality of sleep, the distress caused by depression and the impact of depression on
    quality of life and daily activities”

    I wonder who drew up the survey?
    It seems that Servier Laboratories sponsored the slick marketing of it, that much is admitted.
    I wonder how much Servier Laboratories stands to gain with the subsequent prescription of its new anti-depressant? How much profit will be made on the back of promoting this survey?
    And at whose expense?
    As always, it is the depressed patient who will suffer, likely from being duped into taking medication.

    Servier UK is pleased to confirm the appointment of Depression Alliance as its Charity of the Year for 2008.

    Depression Alliance work to relieve and to prevent depression by providing information and support services to those who are affected by the illness via publications, supporter services and self help networks.

    Depression Alliance believes that the stigma and lack of accurate information surrounding depression continues to prevent people from seeking and finding appropriate and vital help when it is required and provide information and support to those suffering depression.

    Depression Alliance work extensively with government agencies and healthcare professionals to improve the service provision for those affected by depression.

    The Charity actively campaign to raise awareness amongst the general public about the realities of depression.

    Depression Alliance have been appointed our second charity of the year for 2008 and we look forward to working in partnership with them to raise awareness of the illness over the next year.

    “Agomelatine is an interesting and potentially very valuable antidepressant that is effective in both moderate and severe depression”, says Professor Stuart Montgomery from the Imperial College School of Medicine in London. “The new agent has a unique mode of action, improves sleep without affecting daytime alertness and its efficacy is not compromised by sexual side effects, tolerability problems or discontinuation symptoms.”

    Is Depression Alliance just a front for pharmaceutical companies pushing their antidepressants?
    It certainly seems that it could be.

  4. More drug marketing by the back door - Servier take a bow « seroxat secrets… Says:

    […] a new anti depressant that didn’t ruin your sleep… oh hold on… what’s this I wrote about in May this year when Depression Alliance found themsleves helping in the marketing effort for […]

  5. Depression Alliance – still peddling big pharma lies? « seroxat secrets… Says:

    […] Depression Alliance – clumsy conflicts of interest once again? […]

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