Jim Thomson and the EAASM – promoting big pharma, not patients

Jim Thomson heads up the European Alliance for Access to Safe Medicines (EAASM). Long-standing readers of this blog will know I am always very interested in what Jim’s up to and I’m a long time critic of the man and what he stands for.

So I was interested to read this from the German newspaper Spiegel Online:

‘Worst-Of’ Awards to Smoke Out EU Lobbyists

[Vote here.]

Brussels is packed with behind-the-scenes lobbyists working hard — and not always cleanly or fairly — to promote their employer’s interests. A group of NGOs is currently trying to bring a bit of transparency to this murky world with some not so honorific honors.

When it comes to lawmaking in Europe, an estimated three-fourths of all new laws and regulations originate in Brussels, the European Union’s capital city. And where the decisions that affect businesses are made, even if you can’t see it, you’re always also sure to find one more group — lobbyists.

Yes, they’re the unsung heroes of the European lawmaking arena. Whether it’s in hidden backrooms, at fancy restaurants or at exclusive parties, they are the faceless individuals working tirelessly — as some see it — to make sure that we are misinformed about major world conflicts, that we pay more to stay healthy and that we have more CO2 to enjoy in our atmosphere.

But now, for the fourth year in a row, a group of four NGOs is giving citizens a chance to recognize these individuals and companies by voting online for the 2008 “Worst EU Lobbying Award” and the “Worst Conflict of Interest Award.”

“There really are no rules in the EU that put any restraints on lobbying,” said Ulrich Müller, a representative of Cologne-based group LobbyControl. His organization has teamed up with three other anti-lobbying NGOs — Corporate Europe Observatory, Friends of the Earth Europe and Spinwatch — to administer the awards and thereby recognize “who deserves to be named and shamed for the most deceptive or misleading lobbying campaign in Brussels.”

This year, five finalists have been chosen for the “Worst EU Lobbying Award” from a pool of 54 nominees. The awards are reserved for those who “pretend to be concerned about environmental activities, who pay off scientists, provide concealed financing to anarcho-capitalist think tanks or secure privileged access for themselves to EU institutions.” This year’s nominees include:

  • The Brussels-based PR and lobbying firms GPlus and Aspect Consulting for their roll in “supporting the spread of war propaganda in the recent conflict between Russia and Georgia.” The two companies helped manage the “propaganda war” for the different sides in the conflict, making a killing by keeping the media misinformed and disseminating false information about things such as the number of killed and whether Russian forces were even operating in South Ossetia.
  • The agrofuel lobby representing the producers MPOC, Unica and Abengoa for their “misleading campaigns to promote agrofuels as green,” while denying that producing agrofuels from palm oil and sugarcane has any effect on the security of the food supply and the environment.
  • The European Alliance for Access to Safe Medicines (EAASM) for “hiding the involvement of big pharma corporations in their campaigns.” The organization — which is funded by pharmaceutical heavy-hitters, including Bayer-Schering, Boehringer Ingelheim, Eli Lilly, Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer and Wyeth — failed to disclose its benefactors when publishing a study that tried to dissuade people from using online discount drug providers.
  • The International Air Transport Association (IATA) for its “deceptive lobbying campaign to avoid CO2 reduction obligations in the aviation sector.” According to the award jury, the organization — which lobbies on behalf of aviation giants Lufthansa, British Airways and Air France — successfully persuaded EU representatives to set aviation emission limits using the figures that the lobby had publicized for the industry’s contribution to total global emissions. While the industry persuaded the European Parliament that it was 2 percent, other organizations put the figure at up to 12 percent.
  • The European Business and Parliament Scheme (EBPS) for “abusing their location and lobbying from inside Parliament offices.” Among other things, the business association is accused of organizing a gala night for corporate representatives and members of the European Parliament in official buildings.

[Vote here.]

Anyway, for more about Jim and his previous good works please read on:

What a tangled web we weave…

National Depression week 2005…

Depression Alliance…

Yet more on Cymbalta marketing…

Jim used to be Sales and Marketing Director for Innervate. Read more on the links below about this:

Innervate Ltd, Jim Thomson and the Centre for Mental Health

The good works of the Diabetes Monitoring Forum

More Astroturfing?

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Access to Safe Medicines…?

Alliance for Access to Safe Medicines?

Safe medicines?

Maybe Jim Thomson and his ‘Alliance for Access to Safe Medicines’ should read just a few of the comments that I’ve received in the last week:

“…in the land of hope and glory i,e the United Kingdom: After having to fight to secure public funding from the Legal Assistance Board, to take legal action against GSK regarding seroxat, the solicitor handling the action (Hugh James) informs me that GSK will only consider claims for withdrawl symptoms and side effects, but will not consider deaths or suicides. My wife died I believe due to seroxat. Therefore the solicitor has decided it would not be feasable to pursue my late wife’s case as the chances of success are slim. So not only did i loose my partner, and suffer a family breakdown. I now find that I cannot even get a fair hearing. The solictor did inform me that I could privately fund action, but it would cost around £250,000. Yeah right as if we have that sort of cash lying about. freedom democracy and justice, meaningless empty words unless you have the money to buy them.”

” Its all coming togetter for me now.
Ive had these withdrawl effects first when i was 18 and stopped after taking seroxat from age 14.
I was becoming mentally instable from withdrawl and all the weird shit happening with my psyche.
This led to me going back into therapy haha and this led to them (the doctors) prescribing seroxat again!From the yrs I had been taking seroxat before and did things that were bad for me whithout me feeling this.
I had so much damage done that, once I stopped using seroxat and emotions became FREE again…not suppressed anymore..
I wasnt able to deal with all of the things that had happened.
Eventually when i was 20 they put me again on seroxat ..this time almost immediately when i started taking it I derailed.I went suicidal, did maniac things.Never was able to sleep and my mind was going on like a train.
This lasted almost a yr..untill i managed to say NO (because docors wanted to keep me on this shit)
I managed to STOP and was left broken ..physically and mentally..

I hope psychiatrist and pharmacompanies will be showed no mercy..I hope they will nail these guys ……and they will go into historybooks as criminals…the kinds they are..Big bigcriminals…How can they do this…using children, making people ill, so that they can make money of them…Dont matter how young you are…Theyll prescribe you poison make you a junkie…..all for pieces of paper (money)….doesnt it make you sad….so sad.”

“How come nowadays seroxat is not allowed for children age 7-17, but back in the 90’s it was…….I was given seroxat 40mg a DAY from my 14th till I was 18, much damage was caused due to this. I stopped when I was 18.Without knowing what caused this I became totally insane.
Then they put me back on this shit a yr later and I became suicidal I almost really did it.
I havent been taking it now for yrs but looking back at that time and the damage it has done.Something I have to continue living with the rest of my (young) life.
I feel i cant let these dirtbags get away with it.
I am physically disabled due to the suicidal period on seroxat that lasted half a yr.
God knows what happend to me in the yrs from my 14th untill my 18th.
I was dazed and drugged doing things without realising the consequences.
Im sorry but am i just supposed to sit back and take it that my life was taken from me by corrupt companies and incompetent doctors at the age of 14.

Thanks to the people that make this website.Unfortunately there’s really nowhere else to turn.”

” I WAS PRESCRIBED REQUIP FOR RESTLESS LEG SYNDROME IN AUGUST OF 2006 AND IMMEDIATELY I A 62 YEAR OLD HOUSE WIFE AND CARE GIVER COULD NOT CONTROL THE URGE TO GAMBLE SOMETHING I HAD NEVER DONE BEFORE. I HAD NO IDEA THIS WAS CONNECTED TO REQUIP. I STARTED USING MORTGAGE MONEY AND ANY OTHER I COULD GET. WE ARE NOT ABOUT TO LOSE OUR HOME, WHICH IS ALL WE HAVE AND I AM THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS IN DEBT TO PAYDAY LOAND I HAVE 13 OF THEM AT 500 EACH FOR ALMOST TWO YEARS. NOW. ONCE YOU GET INTO THE LOANS YOU NEVER HAVE ENOUGH MONEY TO GET OUT OF THEM.
EVEN THOUGH I STOPPED TAKING REQUIP RIGHT AFTER I HEARD ON THE PAUL HARVEY RADIO SHOW IN DEC. OF 2006 THAT MAYO CLINIC HAD DONE RESEARCH ON REQUIP AND FOUND IT DID INDEED CAUSE SOME PEOLE TO NOT BE ABLE TO CONTROL AN URGE TO GAMBLE ALSO IN FEB. OF 2007 I HAD TO HAVE 22 BREAST TUMORS REMOVED I NEVER HAD ANY PROBLEMS BEFORE REQUIP. ALL THESE SIDE AFFECTS ARE CLEARLY LISTED IN THE HUGE BOOKLET GLAXOSMITHKLINE SENT ME. THEY STILL REFUSE TO TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR MY SITUATION WHICH IS VERY DIER.

SIR CHRIS GENT JUST SHRUGGED ME OFF LIKE I WAS SOME KIND OF WASTE PRODUCT HE DARE NOT DEAL WITH.

THIS IS A BAD COMPANY I FEEL ALMOST ALL OF THEIR DRUGS CAUSE SOME VERY DANGEROUS SIDE EFFECTS.

I HAVE TRIED LAWYERS EVERYONE IS AFRAID OF THEM BECAUSE THEY ARE SO BIG. I WISH SOMEONE WOULD CALL THESE PEOPLE TO TASK.”

When Jim Thomson and his ‘Alliance for Access to Safe Medicines’ start to speak up for people like these, then maybe I’ll give him the time of day.

Until then Jim you I’m sure you know what you and your ‘Alliance’ can do as far as I’m concerned.

The EAASM misses the point – what exactly are “safe medicines”?

Well then, Jim thomson and the EAASM have had their expensive publicity machine at work (the Medicom Group) and we’re seeing stories in the press about “The Counterfeiting Superhighway” – which is the latest report from the EAASM – “Patients who buy drugs over the internet cannot be sure what they are getting and some may have no active ingredient while others are potentially fatal…”

Says Jim Thomson, Chair, EAASM: “The report findings are shocking and the story it tells demands action. Consumers are susceptible to fake medicines which could harm their health, and in extreme cases be deadly.”

For once, I have to agree with Jim – this is shocking.

Imagine being given the choice between potentially fake Seroxat that could harm my health and perhaps be deadly and real Seroxat… that could harm my health and perhaps be deadly.

Do you know what, Jim? – it’s not only fake medicines that are a problem – patients that also take a drug that’s been manufactured by big pharma and approved by the FDA or the MHRA cannot be sure what they are getting and they may take a potentially fatal drug…

Seroxat, Paxil, Aropax, Zyprexa, Prozac, Effexor, Pristiq, Ritalin, Cymbalta, Champix… shall I go on Jim?

Anyway for more about Jim and some of his previous good works please read:

What a tangled web we weave…

National Depression week 2005…

Depression Alliance…

Yet more on Cymbalta marketing…

Jim used to be Sales and Marketing Director for Innervate. Read more on the links below about this:

Innervate Ltd, Jim Thomson and the Centre for Mental Health

The good works of the Diabetes Monitoring Forum

More Astroturfing?

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.

Outcome:
– 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…

More on self-appointed ‘patient guardian’ Jim Thomson and the EAASM

Controversy over the European Alliance for Access to Safe Medicines and their activities continues. Jim Thomson just won’t go away – still I suppose he needs to earn a living just like the rest of us… I think the accounts of the EAASM will make interesting reading when they’re filed at Companies House.
Earlier this week, the EAASM Harper report was attacked by Heinz Kobert, secretary-general of the parallel importers’ group, the European Association of Euro-Pharmaceutical Companies (EAEPC), who claimed that it made no contribution to the patient safety debate and was about discrediting the “legitimate and safe practice of EU-internal distribution of medicines which introduces price competition for manufacturers”.

Self-appointed ‘patient guardian’ and head of the EAASM Jim Thomson responds to Dr Kobelt:

“…the parallel trade is certainly legal, but whether it is legitimate is open to question…”

“overwhelmingly, the benefit of PPT is primarily accrued by the trader,”

“… as for safety, Dr Kobelt conveniently neglects to mention the tens of thousands of packs of counterfeit medicines that reached UK patients this summer via PPT…”

“…The EAASM report is undoubtedly the most thorough investigation to date of the patient safety implications of PPT and its recommendations represent a massive contribution to the future safety of European patients…”

Just remember Jim’s own words “…ask yourself one question… What does this person, or this organisation, have to gain from taking this position?”

The EAASM is funded by Bayer, Boehringer Ingelheim, Lilly, Pfizer and Wyeth.

For more about Jim and his previous good works please read on:

What a tangled web we weave…

National Depression week 2005…

Depression Alliance…

Yet more on Cymbalta marketing…

Jim used to be Sales and Marketing Director for Innervate. Read more on the links below about this:

Innervate Ltd, Jim Thomson and the Centre for Mental Health

The good works of the Diabetes Monitoring Forum

More Astroturfing?

The European Alliance for Access to Safe Medicines – a confused attempt at astroturfing

At last – we find out a little more about the EAASM – and I have to say it’s all most confusing.

From their website we learn:

The European Alliance for Access to Safe Medicines (EAASM) is a new pan-European patient safety initiative campaigning for the exclusion of counterfeit and substandard medicines from the supply chain.

The EAASM is an independent, cross-sector voice representing European patients’ rights to access safe medicines. Raising public awareness of the issues and addressing the shortcomings of current legislation and enforcement forms a key part of the activities of the European Alliance for Access to Safe Medicines.

Combating counterfeit medicines requires the coordinated effort of all the various public and private stakeholders who are affected and are competent in addressing the different aspects of the problem. Wherever this problem is discussed, the call has been for co-ordination and collaboration. The EAASM aims to make that happen.

That’s what they say. What they actually do is not quite the same.

The first major report from the ‘Alliance’ was the Harper report, an expensive tome (€595/£410) entitled European patient safety and Parallel Pharmaceutical Trade – a potential public health disaster?

It’s a wonderful piece of black propaganda which claims that parallel pharmaceutical trade (PPT) represents “a clear and present danger to the safety of every European patient”. In the report, which has been presented to the European Parliament, author Jonathan Harper alleges that parallel traders’ practice of repacking and relabelling medicines undermines supply chain security, and says there is evidence of PPT being an entry point of counterfeit medicines in to the legitimate supply chain.

So there you have it – in one mighty leap the connection has been made between illegal counterfeit medicines and the wholly legal parallel pharmaceutical trade. Very handy indeed, as the pharmaceutical industry does not like losing profits to the parallel trade. The cynical amongst you might think that the EAASM only link the parallel trade with counterfeit drugs because the EAASM has actually been set up with pharmaceutical money in order to play its part to tarnish a legitimate and safe practice (parallel trading) that poses competition to the major pharmaceutical industries.

So who controls the EAASM?

Do you know, we have no idea… all we know is that “The actions of the EAASM are approved by the executive board which consists of seven members: four independent and three pharmaceutical industry representatives. They ensure that the European Alliance for Access to Safe Medicines remains focused on its stated objectives. ”

No more than that… no names, no details – except for one name – Jim Thomson.

For more about Jim and his previous good works please read on:

What a tangled web we weave…

National Depression week 2005…

Depression Alliance…

Yet more on Cymbalta marketing…

The EAASM is funded by Bayer, Boehringer Ingelheim, Lilly, Pfizer and Wyeth.

BMJ and Doctor happy to be taken in by unsafe study conclusions

Yep this is another story about THAT study – you know the one – where ‘leading psychiatric researcher’ Robert D. Gibbons, linked a 2004 increase in the suicide rate for children and adolescents to a warning by the Food and Drug Administration about the use of antidepressants in minors. The F.D.A. warning, the researchers suggested, might have resulted in severely depressed teenagers going without needed treatment.

This study was published in the USA in the American Journal of Psychiatry and then featured in an article in the UK in the British Medical Journal entitled “Teen suicide rate rises as prescribing of SSRIs falls, study finds”

Oh yeah?

Anyway, the article in the BMJ gave Dr Chris Manning another chance to continue his bizarre campaign of attacking Professor David Healy whenever possible.

Manning is pro SSRI and sees no conflict of interest between his pro SSRI/anti Healy stance and the fact that for years Primhe (his organisation) has received grant funding from pharmaceutical companies that manufacture SSRIs. You can find out more here, here and here.

I think Manning ought to open his mind to the possibility that the conclusions of the study are flawed before he climbs once more onto his soapbox. The black box warning in the US was not applied to anti-depressants until Oct. 15, 2004, so it is difficult to believe that the warning could have affected suicide data for the entire year.

The New York Times reported on September 14 in fact, prescription rates had not changed much in 2004:
“While suicide rates for Americans ages 19 and under rose 14 percent in 2004, the number of prescriptions for antidepressants in that group was basically unchanged and did not drop substantially, according to data from the study. Prescription rates for minors did fall sharply a year later, but the suicide rates for 2005 are not yet available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

There doesn’t seem to be any evidence of a statistically significant association between suicide rates and prescription rates provided in the paper” for the years after the F.D.A. warnings, said Thomas R. Ten Have, a professor of biostatistics at the University of Pennsylvania.

In an interview, Robert D. Gibbons, a professor of biostatistics and psychiatry at the University of Illinois at Chicago and the lead author of the journal article, acknowledged that the data from the United States that he and his colleagues analyzed did not support a causal link between prescription rates and suicide in 2004. “We really need to see the 2005 numbers on suicide to see what happened,” he said.

But Dr. Gibbons defended the paper, saying that when taken in the context of previous studies that linked falling antidepressant use to increased suicide rates, “this study was suggestive, that’s what we’re saying.”

If we look at preliminary suicide data for 2005 (released last week) it shows a 3% drop in suicides for that year–the first full year of the black box warning and a year in which anti-depressant prescriptions actually did drop. This would seem to be the opposite of what the study’s authors argued.

This whole affair is an embarrassment for the AJP and the BMJ. Central flaws in a significant study were not caught by peer reviewers and the journal’s editors. A flawed and fundamentally incorrect paper was published to wide media attention. The world is now in essence being told that down is up and up is down by two hugely influential journals.

This situation must be remedied by the AJP and the BMJ – and quickly. The politics and emotions around the SSRI-suicide debate are too intense and divisive to permit this paper to just sit out in the public realm and be regarded by some forces, especially policy making ones, as ‘evidence.’ It doesn’t make sense for the journal to let whatever debate will erupt over this paper to take place six months from now in the letters section of the journal.

The journals either needs to ensure that a correction is promptly issued for this paper–and done so very publicly–or that the paper itself is retracted.

In addition, I have to wonder why Robert Gibbons, the study’s lead author and a very experienced statistician, could screw things up as badly as has been reported. It kind of makes you wonder how reliable his testimony as an expert witness for Wyeth, makers of Effexor, could have been.

Thanks to the New York Times and Phil Dawdy at Furious Seasons.

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