Stephen Whitehead, ABPI – missing the point completely

I read this article in the New Statesman today and made me really quite annoyed…

It featured a letter written to the New Statesman by the CEO of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI), Stephen Whitehead, as a response to issues Ben Goldacre’s new book, Bad Pharma.

It’s amazing just how stupid a response it is – in fact I have to ask if Stephen has actually bothered to read the book at all or if the’s just gone into classic big Pharma knee jerk mode (after all, Stephen did spend 10 years of his career working at Glaxo and Eli Lily).

But no matter, as the New Statesman has printed Ben’s reply to the response.

However the comment I really found strange from Stephen Whitehead was this “…references to companies (GSK, Lilly, Pfizer) being fined are all examples from the US and simply not relevant to the UK market…”

GSK’s fine was, to remind you, the largest healthcare fraud settlement in history at $3bn.

How it isn’t relevant to the UK is beyond me – because what we’re talking about here is not just illegal marketing of drugs – not just bribing doctors to prescribe GSK products – what we’re talking about here are dead people.

Patients died because they were taking drugs that weren’t safe, drugs that weren’t even approved for their treatment.

In the case of Avandia, the drug is so dangerous that it can no longer be prescribed in Europe – it had to be withdrawn from the market because of high levels of heart attack, heart failure and stroke in patients. It had to be withdrawn from the market because it killed too many people.

How’s that “simply not relevant” to patients in the UK, Stephen?

Go on… talk to me

Why not?

Why not just leave a comment and explain things to me – tell me how I’m wrong about you and your products, about you and the way you market them, about you and the way you harm people, about you and the data you kept hidden, about you and the regulators, about you and your lies.

Talk to me – I want to hear your side of the story – I really do.

Surely someone from my “visitors’ book” has something to say worth saying [except the Scientologists]:

Abbott Laboratories, North Chicago, Illinois

Abbott Laboratories, Gurnee, Illinois

Abbott Laboratories, Libertyville, Illinois

Accenture, United Kingdom

Adpepper.com

Allegiance Healthcare, Waukegan, Illinois

American Red Cross, National Headquarters, Washington

American Society of Clinical Oncology, Alexandria, Virginia

Amgen, Thousand Oaks, California

Anapharm, Quebec, Canada

Ashurst Morris Crisp, Edmonton, United Kingdom

Astra AB, Södertälje, Sweden

Astra Zeneca, Montchanin, Delaware

Avalanche Strategic Communications, Hackensack, New Jersey

Aventis Pasteur, Maidenhead, Windsor

Aventis Pharamceuticals, New Jersey

AXA Ireland

Bausch & Lomb, Rochester, New York

Bear Stearns Security Corporation, New York

Bayer Corporation, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Biogen, West Roxbury, Massachusetts

Bircham Dyson Bell, London, London

BMG Avocats, Genève, Geneve

Boehringer Ingelheim Limited, Egham, Slough

Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, Danbury, Connecticut

Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, Redding, Connecticut

Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, Ridgefield, Connecticut

Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, Copenhagen

BKD LLP, Springfield, Missouri

Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah

Bristol Myers Squibb Pharmaceutical Research Institute, Monmouth Junction, New Jersey

Bristol Myers Squibb Pharmaceutical Research Institute, Plainsboro, New Jersey

Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island

Burson – Marsteller BVBA, Brussels

Burson Marsteller, New York

Burson Marsteller (SEA) Pte Ltd, Singapore

California State University, Northridge

Capital One Financial, Richmond, Virginia

Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic

Church of Scientology International, Los Angeles, California

Cleveland Clinic Foundation, Cleveland, Ohio

CMP Media LLC, Great Neck, New York

Collective Intellect, Boulder, Colorado

Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center, New York

Commission Europeenne, Wezembeek-Oppem, Brabant

Corbett Healthconnect, Chicago, Illinois

Cornerstone Partners, New York

Cypress Bioscience, San Diego, California

Debevoise & Plimpton,

DOIM, Laurel, Maryland

Edelman PR, Alexandria, Virginia

Edelman, London

Edelman PR, New York

Edelman PR, Seattle, Washington

E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Co., Wilmington, Delaware

Eli Lilly and Company, Europe

Eli Lilly and Company, Indianapolis, Indiana

Elron Technologies, Israel

Elsevier Science Limited, Bletchingdon, Oxfordshire

Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia

European Parliament, Brussels

Evergreen Medical Group, Kirkland, Washington

Experian Information Solutions, Roswell, Georgia

FDA, Parklawn Computer Center / DIMES HQ, Silver Spring, Maryland

Parklawn Computer Center / DIMES HQ, Rockville, Maryland

Finkelstein, Thompson & Loughran, Washington, District of Columbia

Fisher & Paykel Ltd., Northmead, New South Wales

Foote, Cone & Belding , New York

Forest Labs, New Hyde Park, New York

Genentech, Dixon, California

Genentech, San Francisco, California

General Motors Corporation, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan

Gerson Lehrman Group, Austin, Texas

Gilead Sciences, Boulder, Colorado

Glaxo., King Of Prussia, Pennsylvania

Glaxo, Raleigh, North Carolina

GlaxoSmithkline, Mississauga, Ontario

Glaxosmithkline S.p.A, Verona, Veneto

Group Health Cooperative, Seattle, Washington

Haymarket Media, Garfield, New Jersey

Health and Welfare Agency Data Center, Clarksburg, California

Hearst Corporation, New York

Hikma Pharmaceuticals, Amman, Jordan

Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine, London

Internal Revenue Service, Highland, Maryland

James, Houer, Newcome & Smiljanich, Birmingham, New Jersey

Jones, Day, Reavis & Pogue, Cleveland, Ohio

The Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, Baltimore, Maryland

Josef Nopp KG, Leonding, Oberosterreich, Austria

Johnson & Johnson, Fort Wayne, Indiana

Johnson & Johnson, New Jersey

Johnson & Johnson, Europe

JP Morgan Chase & Co, Columbus, Ohio

JP Morgan Chase & Co, New York

Kaiser Permanente, El Cerrito, California

Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program, Los Angeles, California

Kendle, Glasgow, Scotland

King & Spalding, Washington DC

Life Science Communications, Upper Holloway, Redbridge

LNS Communications, Brookline, Massachusetts

Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles

Management Centre Europe, Brussels

Mayo Foundation, Rochester, Minnesota,

McCarter & English, Newark, New Jersey

Marcus Evans, Chicago, Illinois

McCann-Erickson GuangMing Lt, Hong Kong

McCann-Erickson, London

McCann-Erickson, New York

McCann-Erickson/Torre Lazur, Denville, New Jersey

MDE Investors, Washington, DC

Medical Broadcasting Company, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Meditech Media, London

Medstat Systems, Ann Arbor, Michigan

Merck and Co., Montgomeryville, Pennsylvania

Merck and Co., Skillman, New Jersey,

Meta Pharmaceutical Services LLC, Conshohocken, Pennsylvania

Microsoft Corp, United States

MORI, London

Morgen Walke Associates, Brooklyn, New York

Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York

National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland

Neuronetics, Malvern, Philadelphia

Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough, Columbia, South Carolina

News Corporation, New York

Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois

Novartis AG, Europe

Novo Nordisk Pharmaceutical, Princeton, New Jersey

Organon Pharmacy, Roseland, New Jersey

Otsuka America Pharmaceutical, Gaithersburg, Maryland

Performance Systems International, Toronto, Ontario

Pepper, Hamilton and Sheetz, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Pfizer, Australia

Pfizer, New York

Pfizer, Quaker Hill, Connecticut

Pfizer, United Kingdom

Phillips Lytle LLP, Buffalo, New York

Porter Novelli, New York

PricewaterhouseCoopers GTS UK, London

Publicis & Hal Riney, El Cerrito, California

Quintiles, Raleigh, North Carolina

Regulatory Affairs Professionals Society, Rockville, Maryland

Research Triangle Institute, Durham, North Carolina

R G C Jenkins & Co, London

R I S Christie, Toronto, Ontario

Rosen & Livingston, Brooklyn, New York

Ruder Finn, London

Sankyo Pharma, Parsippany, New Jersey

Sanofi Synthelab(s) PTE LTD, Singapore

Sanofi Techniques, Bourg-la-Reine

Schering-Plough Corporation, Plainfield, New Jersey

Scientific American, New York

Semyung University, Chungbuk, Kyongsang-bukto, Korea

Shire US, Wayne, Pennsylvania

Shock Hardy & Bacon, Overland Park, Kansas,

Smith Hanley, Indianapolis, Indiana

SmithKline Beecham, Ickenham, Slough, United Kingdom

SmithKline Beecham, North Weald, Havering, United Kingdom

St. John Medical Center, Tulsa, Oklahoma

St Josephs Health System, Anaheim, California

State of CA, Dept. of Consumer Affairs (DCA), Sacramento, California

Steptoe & Johnson, London

Steptoe & Johnson, Washington, District of Columbia

Syntex USA, Livingston, New Jersey

Syntex USA, Switzerland

Syracuse Research Corporation, Syracuse, New York

Takeda Pharmaceuticals A, Chicago, Illinois,

Takeda Pharmaceuticals North America, Lincolnshire, Illinois

Takeda UK Ltd, High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire

Texas A&M University, Corpus Christi, Texas

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Newington, Virginia

The McGinn Group, Fredericktown, Ohio

The Nielsen Company, New York

The Procter and Gamble Company, Cincinnati, Ohio

The United States Centers For Disease Control, Atlanta, Georgia

Trinity Mirror Group, London

TRW Space and Defense Sector, Torrance, California

Ulmer Berne, United States

University of California, Irvine, Irvine

University of Manchester, Manchester, England

University of Newcastle upon Tyne, United Kingdom

University of New Hampshire, Durham, New Hampshire

University of Portsmouth, Portsmouth, United Kingdom

University of Westminster, London

USA TODAY, McLean, Virginia

U.S. Dept. of Commerce – ITA, Cheltenham, Maryland

U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, Washington, District of Columbia

U.S. Department of State, Arlington, Virginia

U.S. Senate Sergeant at Arms, Arlington, Virginia

VJIL Consulting, Hyderabad, India

Waggener Edstrom, Portland, Oregon

Walgreens, Arlington Heights, Illinois

Warner-Lambert Company, Morris Plains, New Jersey

Wiley, Rein & Fielding, Washington, District of Columbia

WPP Group, New York

WPP Group U.S. Investments, Miami, Florida

Wyeth-Ayerst Research, Horsham, Pennsylvania

Wyeth-Ayerst Research, Waldwick, New Jersey

Young & Rubicam-Media Edge, San Francisco, California

What about you guys at Ogilvy and Mather Worldwide in New York? Who’s your client? What do they want to say?

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.

GAMIAN-Europe
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.” (www.pfizerforum.com/authors/elgiebio.shtml) 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…

What a tangled web we weave…3

So – some information on Dr Chris Manning and Primhe“Primhe is the UK primary care professional charity dedicated to mental health and the care of those with mental illness in primary care settings. Our mantra is “bringing ‘mental’ into the mainstream”.

You’ll recall that Chris Manning used to be at Depression Alliance in the good old days along with Jim Thomson and Amelia Mustapha… see here and here for more information.

Of course Chris is also involved in Jim’s new ventures: the Centre for Mental Health and the Healthwell.org – and Primhe, of course, employs Innervate (which Jim Thomson works for).

Well, I suppose you may as well keep it in the family, so to speak – all the links are here if you want them again and the graphic download is here – charities-web.pdf

But the point of this post is to send you over to Bob Fiddaman – he’s found out some interesting information about Primhe…

So once again I ask what have we discovered here? – something or nothing?

You decide for yourselves, ladies and gentlemen.

But bear this in mind: The ABPI’s campaign orchestrates both lobbying and public relations in its overall strategy. At a briefing to the Pharmaceuticals Marketing Society in 2000, the ABPI described its “battle plan” thus: “to deploy ground troops in the form of patient support groups, symapthetic medical opinion and healthcare professionals…”

MP in call for halt to use of anti-depressant

A DUNDEE MP is calling for the controversial anti-depressant Seroxat to be suspended for all new patients in the light of growing evidence linking the drug to suicidal tendencies.

Dundee East MP Stewart Hosie met the medicines trade body, the Association of British Pharmaceutical Industries, to outline his concerns about the drug.

A recent US Food and Drug Administration report found a six-fold increase in the risk of suicidal thoughts and acts in children and a three-fold increase in adults after Seroxat treatment.

It is the latest in a long line of damning reports over the drug’s dangerous effect on an unacceptably high number of adults and children, and Mr Hosie has criticised ministers for “dragging their heels over the strong evidence regarding Seroxat.”

He has also joined a growing number of cross-party MPs in criticising the body responsible for licensing the drug, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), for being too close to the pharmaceutical industry.

Speaking after his meeting with the pharmaceutical industries association, Mr Hosie said, “From what I have heard during the meeting, it is my understanding that many people within the pharmaceutical industry share my concerns about the apparent close relationship between the MHRA and the companies it regulates”.

You can read the entire article by Mark McLaughlin here.

Big Bucks, Big Pharma

Here in the UK, we don’t have direct to consumer (DTC) advertising… yet. The drug companies are pushing for it though, so watch out.

Have a look at the link here to see just what DTC advertising really means.

In the USA, advertising to consumers works in tandem with the huge effort Big Pharma puts in ‘working’ with Doctors to push their products.

The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) is the UK pharmaceutical industry’s main industry body and lobby group. Members include seventy five companies in the UK producing prescription medicines, supplying more than 90 per cent of the medicines prescribed through the National Health Service (NHS).

The ABPI has long been lobbying for relaxation of the regulations governing promotion and advertising of prescription medicine. After the US Food and Drug Administration changed its rules to allow direct-to-consumer (DTC) marketing in 1997 the ABPI began its campaign for DTC marketing in Britain and Europe.

The new rules in the USA have led to a plethora of advertising and PR campaigns promoting prescription drugs. By 2000 american drugs companies were spending $2bn on DTC marketing of branded medicines. Recent PR campaigns have included the spectacle of american celebrities extolling the virtues of particular drugs during chat show appearances.

The Consumers Association objects that marketing will inevitably present a biased viewpoint of drugs, highlighting benefits and not the risks and ignoring non-drug treatments. Patients demanding particular brands will lead to increased costs to the NHS. The CA also points out a lack of any evidence of overall health benefits in the USA as a result of DTC advertising.

The ABPI’s campaign orchestrates both lobbying and public relations in its overall strategy. At a briefing to the Pharmaceuticals Marketing Society in 2000, the ABPI described its “battle plan” thus: “to deploy ground troops in the form of patient support groups, symapthetic medical opinion and healthcare professionals… which will lead the debate on the informed patient issue. This will have the effect of weakening political, ideological and professional defences… Then the ABPI will follow through with high-level precision strikes on specific regulatory enclaves in both Whitehall and Brussels…”

More background on the ABPI can be found here.

Of course, DTC advertising is not about making money for Big Pharma – God forbid – they tell us it’s all about patient education and information…

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