Thursday, December 20, 2007

Happy Holidays! Support Your Local Pharma Industry!

Bloggers in the Pharma Blogosphere did not like it when I asked readers to rate my blog and others (see survey summary here). That taught me a lesson: think of numero uno first! Therefore, I've been running a survey of readers of Pharma Marketing Blog for a while. Thank you if you have already taken that survey. If not, see Pharma Marketing Blog Reader Survey to take the survey - but only if you read Pharma Marketing Blog and want to suggest topics I should cover in the New Year!

Support for Industry
A good majority (65%) of Pharma Marketing Blog readers are somewhat or very supportive of the pharmaceutical industry in general, whereas only 19% are somewhat or very unsupportive (see chart below).

I am happy that my readers support the drug industry -- I am "somewhat supportive" of the industry myself, which means I want the industry to succeed, not fail and to do the "right thing" when it comes to marketing.

It's interesting to note that although 84% of industry respondents in my survey consider themselves supportive of the industry, a good percentage (24%) feel as I do -- their support may be conditional (ie, they "somewhat support" the industry)!

The survey also asks other questions like what topics readers would like to read more about on Pharma Marketing Blog and what other blogs they read on a regular basis -- I know those results will be contested by my fellow bloggers! But 'tis the season for good cheer and I will delay a report on those questions until AFTER the New Year!

In the meantime,


Monday, December 17, 2007

This Year's #1 Office Party Favor

Hint: It's an ENHANCED mistletoe product that is sure to liven up any dull office holiday party!

Yet another reason to invite John Mack to your party.

Read about it here.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Last Chance to Invite Me to Your Holiday Office Party!

It's a tradition!

Every year at this time I make the rounds to holiday office parties in the tri-state area (NY, NJ, PA) and hand out favors and offers that cannot be refused.

If you are having a party next week, why not invite me?

I still have the tux I wore at the MM&M awards party -- see that story here.

James Chase, Editor-in-Chief at MM&M, was glad that he invited me, if you know what I mean. (That's his editorial assistant kissing my ring at Tavern on the Green.)

Here's my contact information:

John Mack, Editor & Publisher
Pharma Marketing News/Pharma Marketing Blog
PO Box 760
Newtown, PA 18940
215-504-4164 * 215-504-5739 (Fax)

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Mack's Lilly Whistleblower Scoop!

Several weeks ago I received an email from John Virapen who published a fictional novel ("Side Effects: Death"; written in German) about corruption in the pharma industry.

Virapen claims to have "damning evidence" exposing Eli Lilly bribing the regulatory board in Sweden to attain marketing approval for Prozac and he plans to write the true story based on his memoirs outlining his and Lilly's criminal activities.

Who is John Virapen and do his claims have merit? Is this part of a wider scandal involving Lilly?

Read all the juicy details and learn how you can hear the story first hand from John Virapen in today's post to Pharma Marketing Blog.

Monday, December 10, 2007

"Talking Loogie" and Other DTC Critters Walk Out!

NEW YORK, New York (PMB) -- The Critters that appear in many direct-to-consumer (DTC) drug ads will go on strike early Tuesday after their negotiating team recommended a walkout over royalties that could immediately pinch primetime news shows that depend on the ads for revenue.

The DTC Critters Guild of America (DTC-CGA) board voted unanimously to strike as of 12:01 a.m. Monday (3:01 a.m. ET), officials said.

The walkout will be the first in 10 years since the FDA loosened DTC regulations.

The labor impasse is over royalties from use of DTC in alternative media such as blogs, podcasts, web boards, YouTube -- all the various places their works are now distributed, including Internet downloads.

For the full story, including insights from Mr. Mucinex, Beaver, Stippy the Turd, and Honest Abe, see today's post to Pharma Marketing Blog.

In a related story, the WSJ Health Blog reports that Mr. Mucinex is worth $2.3 billion to Reckitt Benckiser, the company that hires him to appear in the Mucinex DTC ads (see "How a Talking Loogie Landed a Multi-Billion Dollar Deal").

Postscript: Newly Discovered Pharma Blog

While I was looking elsewhere, a new blog entered the Pharma Blogosphere in September: Postscript. Looks worthy of your attention.

Here's the maiden post describing its mission:

PostScript, a blog from the Prescription Project, adds another dimension to the Project’s goal of raising awareness around the medical conflict-of-interest issues that are created when drug companies open their wallets to influence prescribing. The Prescription Project Weekly Reader, an e-newsletter that highlights relevant news stories of the week, will continue its regular circulation. You can sign up to receive the Weekly Reader at the Prescription Project website,, where you can also find project news, press releases and media resources, and information on upcoming events.

If you’ve visited our website before or received the Weekly Reader, you know that RxP has a clear mission—to eliminate the influence of pharmaceutical money on the practice of medicine. Toward that end, PostScript will have a clear voice, too, commenting on recent news related to the project and contributing to the growing conversation in the media and blogosphere about pharmaceutical marketing and its harmful effects on health care in this country.

But PostScript cannot just be a single voice. Medical conflict of interest issues affect so many different people in as many ways. Therefore, we feel this blog should reflect those varied voices, acting from time to time as a forum for friends and colleagues of the project—patients and health care practitioners, workers and administrators who have seen first-hand the effects of pharmaceutical marketing on their work and treatment—to share their views.

Friday, December 7, 2007

'Round the Sphere: Blame the Victim and Rost the Litigation Consultant

Generally speaking, Peter Rost -- pharma whistleblower, blogger, and author -- needs no help from me to promote Peter Rost. He's the ultimate self-promotional machine!

If you haven't noticed yet, Peter is now hawking his services as a "Litigation Consultant" on his new blog: "Pharma Marketing Expert Witness."

I don't think he intends to be a witness for the defense of the pharmaceutical industry.

You Are to Blame for High Drug Prices!
If you believe Montel Williams, Peter is now part of the reason why drug prices are so high: litigation against the pharma industry.

Recall (see video here) that Montel was asked by an 17-year old Savannah Morning News intern "What do you think is the main cause of the high cost of prescription drugs?" Shortly afterward, Montel threatened to blow up the intern. But he did answer the question:

"We are the most litigious society in the world," said Montel. "Someone takes a vitamin and [they] sue because the vitamin wasn't of the appropriate flavor. That cost is put back on (sic) your pocket. Everyone wants to vilify the pharmaceutical industry. But no one wants to take responsibility for the FACT that over the course of the past thirty years, we've pushed the cost of these drugs up OURSELVES (his emphasis) by suing..." QED!
If you believe that load of horse shit, which BLAMES THE VICTIM, then Peter Rost will now be part of the problem, not the solution!

Doesn't anyone else find it STRANGE that a spokesperson for a program designed to help victims of high drug prices BLAMES these same people for causing the high drug prices?


Thursday, December 6, 2007

Mensa, Schmensa: How Smart Are You?

Here's a challenge inspired by the Washington Post's Mensa Invitational.

Take any word from the dictionary, alter it by adding, subtracting, or changing one letter, and supply a new definition.

Here are some examples:

  • Bozone (n.): The substance surrounding stupid people that stops bright ideas from penetrating. The bozone layer, unfortunately, shows little sign of breaking down in the near future.
  • Sarchasm: The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn't get it.
  • Osteopornosis: A degenerate disease.
  • Ignoranus: A person who's both stupid and an asshole.
What I am looking for are more pharma-related terms such as:
  • Adhorence: the deep hatred of advertising (compare to the pharma-related term "Adherence")
You can find more examples here.

I am trying to think up one appropriate to the Montel Williams story, but am coming up empty at the moment. Got any ideas?

P.S. I sent an email to the Association of Black Cardiologists, which is currently spotlighted as a Partner Organization on the PPA Web site, and asked "Will you pressure PhRMA to fire Montel?" I asked for a return receipt. Here's what I got back:

Your message

To: abcardio
Subject: Will you pressure PhRMA to fire Montel?
Sent: Tue, 4 Dec 2007 10:36:01 -0500

was deleted without being read on Thu, 6 Dec 2007 16:24:50 -0500

The name of the person who did not read my email is Icilma Bertie (email address:

Maybe if you emailed Icilma you'll have better luck!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Insider Joins Blogger Call for Dumping Montel

Couple of things:

  1. Insider, aka Jack Friday, over at PharmaGossip has joined me in the call for PhRMA to fire Montel Williams (see story in yesterday's post to this blog).

  2. If you would like to be added to the roster of pharma bloggers calling for Montel to be fired as PhRMA's celeb Partnership for Prescription Assistance spokesperson, you can leave a comment here or join in a discussion thread I set up over at the Pharma Marketing Network Forums.
Meanwhile, while searching blogs for more Montel posts, I discovered that Montel is looking for UNPAID INTERNS to work for his management and product company (creatively named "Letnom" -- I should have named my blog Kcam; duh!). Regarding Montel's search for an intern, I kid you not! See my post today on Pharma Marketing Blog where I have created an alternative version of the job posting -- one that Montel may have wanted to write himself, but for the sake of political correctness, could not.

P.S. Thanks to Prescription Access Litigation Blog for posting the following video of the question Montel was asked by the young intern. Montel blames the high cost of Rx drugs on our litigious society and tries to stay on message.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

'Round the Sphere: Montel's Bomb Blows Up in Blogs!

So far, at least four blogs in the Pharma Blogosphere -- Pharma Marketing Blog, Pharmalot, eDrugSearch Blog, and WSJ Health Blog -- have posted comments about Montel Williams threat to "blow up" a Savannah Morning News high school intern reporter (see the story here, here, here, and here).
Even PhRMA Intern has gotten into the act (see "PhRMA Intern v. Montel: HS Intern is Saved, But...").

Survey Says
Only one blogger -- me, John Mack -- has called for PhRMA to fire Montel.

If unscientific polls on Pharma Marketing Blog and Pharmalot are any indication, the vast majority of our readers agree that Montel should go.

Ed Silverman over at Pharmalot just asked his readers to respond 'yes' or 'no.' So far, 74% voted Yes. Here's my poll, which so far shows 88% favor firing Montel:

Should PhRMA Fire Montel?
Yes, because I support zero tolerance for this kind of behavior.
Yes, because he's now a PR liability.
No, because he has apologized.
No, because it's no big deal.
Not sure.

This morning the following editorial appeared in the Savannah Morning News:
Montel Williams, the Bully

Montel Williams was a decorated Navy officer, but he was no gentlemen when he threatened a 17-year-old high school student and Savannah Morning News intern.

TELEVISION PERSONALITY Montel Williams apologized Saturday, and rightly so, for threatening a 17-year-old high school student who had asked him a fair question Friday while she was covering an assignment as a Savannah Morning News intern.

Of course, if Mr. Williams was genuinely contrite about his shameful behavior, he wouldn't have issued an apology Saturday through a spokeswoman for his TV talk show. Instead, he would have apologized personally.

Or sent flowers and a card. That's what a real gentleman would have done.

Intern Courtney Scott, a senior at Jenkins High School, was assigned to cover Mr. Williams, who was in town promoting free prescriptions for poor people. It should have been a tame story. Instead, Mr. Williams got angry when Ms. Scott asked him a question he didn't like. He stormed away.

Then later, when Ms. Scott was at the Westin hotel doing a feature about gingerbread houses, Mr. Williams and his bodyguard walked up to the young student and angrily confronted her.

According to Ms. Scott and two witnesses, Mr. Williams threatened to find and "blow up" the residences of the intern and two reporters with her.

Ms. Scott filed a police report late Saturday, but not because a celebrity acted like a jerk. No one, whether a "big star," as Mr. Williams claimed to be, or a no-name street person, has a right to threaten bodily harm on another.

What's sad is that Ms. Scott was looking forward to interviewing Mr. Williams. Her mother and grandmother are fans and watch his show. Her Navy Junior ROTC commander at Jenkins (Ms. Scott is in J-ROTC) told her he was at the U.S. Naval Academy during the same time as Mr. Williams.

Montel Williams left the Navy as a decorated officer. But he apparently left the gentleman part behind, too. Still, student-intern Scott learned a valuable lesson - how to deal with a bully.

She passed that test, with flying colors.
Those southerners! Send flowers like a real gentleman? Get real!

However, I agree that "No one, whether a "big star," as Mr. Williams claimed to be, or a no-name street person, has a right to threaten bodily harm on another."

At the moment, the spinmeisters are attempting to dismiss the incident by redefining what Montel meant by "blow up." Maybe, some say, he merely meant he would blow up her career. Terra Sigillata asks "Montel Williams' blow-up: a symptom of multiple sclerosis or bad judgment?"

A commenter suggested that the young intern should not have even filed a police report:
"...and a police report? grow up.. if you need a police report over someone's words, you're never gonna make it in society."
That reminds me of a story that many parents out there can relate to.

When my son was ten years old, we got him a cell phone. These days that's what parents do to help keep in touch with their kids and keep them safe.

Well, he and his friends made some prank calls of the "Is your refrigerator running?" variety. But they called another "Mack" family listed in the phone book and left a recording on the answering machine in a squeaky, little boy voice: "We are the dominant Macks!"

Long story, shortened: The other "Macks" were so frightened that they not only called the cops and gave them the recording plus my son's cell phone number, they also moved out of their house and took up residence at a local hotel. The cops even paid us a visit!

If that's how grown up people react to a prank call, then I think it's perfectly reasonable for a high school student to take Montel's threat seriously and report it to the police.

The question is: Will the police interrogate Montel like my town's police interrogated my son? or will the charges be dropped?

As I mentioned in my blog, the threat that Montel made was a terrorist threat that, if made by a high school student in the classroom, would instantly cause that student to be expelled or worse!

If PhRMA stands behind "bully" celebrities who think they are above the law or who do not know how to behave in front of children, then I think pharmaceutical employees -- and I mean some of the people reading this -- should encourage their companies to force PhRMA to fire Montel.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Should Zero Tolerance be Applied to Pharma Celebrity Spokespeople?

Not so long ago, I called for pharma advertisers to boycott the Imus show over his infamous "nappy-headed ho" racial slur against young college athletes who never did him any harm (see "Glaxo, Pull Your Imus Ads!"). The next day, GSK and other advertisers did pull their ads.

Now another celebrity associated with the pharmaceutical industry has gone bad -- Montel Williams.

How did Montel go "bad' and what should PhRMA do about it?

Find out by reading today's post to Pharma Marketing Blog. You can also take my little poll.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Pharmalyst - Over and Out

The Pharmalyst blog has shut down after accepting an employment offer from a pharmaceutical company. Here's the announcement made on November 17:

Pharmalyst just came off the campus recruiting season and this explains the lack of any posts prior to this one in November.

Well, it looks like all good things must come to an end and perhaps it is now the turn of Pharmalyst's blogging career. During the recruiting season Pharmalyst interviewed with a few pharma firms. One offer was made and Pharmalyst has decided to accept the offer. So starting this summer, Pharmalyst will be one of the unwashed masses toiling away at a big pharma.

Pharmalyst wants to thank all his readers, other pharma bloggers and the many people who corresponded with him. All your insights really gave Pharmalyst a good understanding of the Pharma industry. While this may be the end of this blog (unless the blogging bug bites Pharmalyst again :-)), you may still see Pharmalyst lurking in the comments area of the many fine pharma blogs out there.

Thank you all again (and for those in the US - wish you a happy thanksgiving! Pharmalyst definitely has many things to be thankful for). Cheers.

Over and Out!!

Good luck JS in your new career! Keep in touch.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Lilly's Taurel Warns Off "Would-be Pundits"

Rich Myer over at World of DTC Marketing -- which has had a recent facelift (very nice) -- emailed me a link to an OpEd piece in the WSJ written by Sidney Taurel, CEO of Eli Lilly and Company (saint Taurel seen on left). The piece was entitled "The Media on Drugs" -- a title I find unfortunate in the context of discussing the "ethical" drug industry.

Mr. Taurel chided the media for perpetrating unfounded rumors, innuendos and unsubstantiated facts about Lilly's motives for halting two clinical trials for the drug prasugrel. As Myer says "But Mr. Taurel takes it a step further and feels that the media should try and understand the data so that they can report the whole story."

Taurel also took a shot at "would-be pundits" (ie, bloggers) and said "If you have not had firsthand exposure to the scientific results or specialized knowledge under discussion, then qualify your comments if you must make them at all."

BTW, have you heard this one?

Why don't drug company CEOs write blogs?

They do. It's called the Wall Street Journal OpEd page!
While we poor "pundits" must roll our own presses on the Internet, Taurel merely drops a note to WSJ and instantly reaches millions of readers! Now that's what I call Media on Drugs!

In any case, I suspect that Taurel was merely offering an excuse for his own failings to manage the media. This was pointed out by a commenter on the CNBC site and quoted by Myer:
"I think Taurel is shooting the messenger. Lilly had to know that the original story about the halted clinical trials was going to break. And, if so, it had a golden opportunity to try to get out in front of it and do some spin control. For example, offer up high-level executives to reporters immediately. Put out a more detailed statement than the one it released. The company might argue that its hands were tied because of the pending embargo on the larger clinical trial results which were soon due to be presented at the American Heart Association meeting and published in 'The New England Journal of Medicine.' But I suspect that given the extraordinary circumstances--the news of the two smaller studies being halted and the steep $6 billion decline in LLY's market value because of it--that the company might have been able to convince AHA and/or NEJM to loosen up a little and let its officials discuss at least some of the results in an open forum, pre-embargo."

How About this for an Innuendo?
Not only that, but I find the timing of the halting of the two trials peculiar. It was done a mere 10 days prior to the embargo date. Couldn't Lilly have waited until AFTER the embargo was lifted and avoided this whole brouhaha? After all, Taurel claimed that Lilly "received no reports of safety concerns from them." Or did they? Let the rumors continue! Long live the pundits!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

'Round the Sphere: True Confessions and Omissions

Dr. Carlat's (author of The Carlat Psychiatry Blog) confession of a past stint as a paid drug industry "consultant" was first sighted by me in the Wall Street Journal Health Blog here.

[BTW, kudos for to the WSJ Health Blog for attaining the #6 position in eDrugSearch's list of Top 100 health Blogs. This beats Pharmalot, which has dropped back to #42. Pharma Marketing Blog, however, is close behind WSJ in the #11 position!]

Howard Brody over at Hooked on Ethics blog pointed out a few things Dr. Carlat omitted ini his confession and suggested that the $30,000 Dr. Carlat received as "honoraria" was actually a bribe to prescribe more Effexor ER (see Carlat's 'Dr. Drug Rep'--Some Further Possibilities). He also suggested that the same is true for the other 199,999 physician "consultants."

I dunno. The math just doesn't work for me. $30,000 is a lot to get maybe 25 or so new patients on the drug, which is probably the extent that Dr. Carlat to increase his NRx for Effexor ER. I offered a different ROI analysis in my post on the topic (see "Dr. Carlat's True Confession: 199,999 More to Go").

My conception of the conversation Dr. Carlat had with the Wyeth sales manager the day after he was less than a stellar spokesperson for Effexor ER (see here for the back story).

You might also want to read the comments posted to Carlat's own blog here. One comment posted by a psychiatrist in private practice in NYC included this confession, demonstrating once again how naive physicians claim to be:
"I was particularly struck, okay, terrified, by your description of the way the AMA sells information, and that that, and purchasing prescribing information from pharmacies aren't illegal. Everyone's so conscious of HIPAA laws, you'd think there would be some corresponding protection for physician privacy."
Carlat also claimed to be "astonished" at the level of information drug companies have about the prescribing habits of physicians. As if that were some kind of state secret!

As for "physician privacy," imagine if the prescribing habits of physicians were really considered private information that the public had no right to see! How would we hold them accountable? As a matter of fact, the government (eg, HHS) should spend some dough getting their hands on these data and see if physicians really are prescribing the right drugs for patients and link Rx behavior with patient outcomes. O yeah, forgot. That would require universal electronic medical records -- a pipe dream long forgotten by the current administration!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Happy Turkey Day! Will the Last Person to Leave the Internet Please Shut Off the Lights?

Have you noticed how quiet the Internet is today?

No spam email! Hardly any visitors to Web sites!

Am I the last guy here?

Like everyone else, I soon will be outta here and starting my traditional Thanksgiving Day period of celebration.

Since I am hosting the feast this year, I am not traveling. So I may indeed be the last person to leave the Pharma Blogosphere, although I suspect I will be vying for that honor with Ed Silverman over at Pharmalot!

Happy Thanksgiving to Ed and all my blogging buddies!

Monday, November 19, 2007

You Need to Be THIS Smart to Read This Blog

bullshitAlex Sugarman-Brozan, author of the Prescription Access Litigation Blog, sent me notice of the Blog Readability Test, which supposedly grades the readability of blogs and websites (see his post on this topic here).

Alex points out several problems with the scoring system used by this test.

Alex points out: "It’s at No information is available about who wrote it, how they determine the readability, which of the various tools out there they use, etc. So its results must be taken with a grain of salt."

So here -- without the salt -- are some results for a few of my favorite blogs in the Pharma Blogosphere (in descending order, more or less):

Alex is disappointed that the PAL Blog is written at the Genius level. He actually covets Peter Rost's Junior High School rating! Go figure.

Meanwhile, if you would like to see how actual readers rate some of these blogs, take a look at this (yeah, yeah, unscientific) survey.

Friday, November 16, 2007

'Round the Sphere: RLS redux -- Rost's Legal Suit

Peter Rost, a former Pfizer VP, wins appeal in qui tam case against Pfizer Inc.

Peter Rost, the writer of NRX, filed a qui tam suit against Pfizer Inc., during his employment as Vice President at Pfizer. The suit alleged illegal marketing of Genotropin, a growth hormone.

The information in the suit resulted in Pfizer paying a $34.7 million fine in April 2007, however, the district court ultimately held that 'Rost failed to plead his fraud claims with sufficient specificity' and his civil suit was dismissed.

Yesterday the United States Court of Appeals For the First Circuit vacated the decision by the district court to dismiss Rost's suit, and concluded in its ruling, 'The dismissal of the action is vacated. The case is remanded to the district court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

What this means is that Rost gets an opportunity to amend his original complaint with additional information requested by the court.

"In other words," says Ed Silverman over at Pharmalot, "he's back in the game and may, ultimately, win a slice of the Pfizer fine."

Hmmm... slice. Hmmm... donuts!

Speaking of RLS and piles of money, can you guess how much money the US healthcare system may be wasting treating Restless Leg Syndrome with Requip?

Is it:

$150,000 per year?
$1,250,000 per year?
$285,000,000 per year?
$1,100,000,000 per year?

I know. I know. It depends on what you mean by "waste."

Anyway, over at Pharma Marketing Blog, I whipped out my trusty Microsoft desktop calculator and did some math so that you don't have to.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

'Round the Sphere: RLS Videos. Creepy, Crawly, Weird, and Wired!

It all started innocently enough with a post by Ed Silverman over at Pharmalot. On Tuesday, Ed called our attention to a Consumer Reports video critique of the classic "Creepy, Crawly" Requip Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) TV ad (see "Debunking TV Ads: Installment #1").

Although Ed's post was published about 12 days after CR first uploaded the video on its web site, I think the post woke up the sleeping RLS Foundation, GSK, and their PR minions who set to work debunking the debunkers.

That same day (Nov. 13) I received a comment from an anonymous Pharma Marketing Blog reader notifying me that the RLS Foundation had that day sent an e-mail to its members urging a boycott of CR. The Foundation also wrote a letter to CR. I posted a note about this turn of events on my blog the next morning (see "RLS Foundation (aka GSK?) Calls for Boycott of Consumer Reports Over Ad Spoof").

Since then, I have received numerous comments to my post in defense of the RLS Foundation. All say the same thing: it's a real independent patient organization (as opposed to an "astroturf" organization founded by GSK and BI) and RLS is a "real" medical condition. Yadda, yadda, yadda.

I have reason to believe the initial comment and some of the others have been orchestrated by buzz marketers who have not flawlessly executed the "Posing as a Consumer on Social Networks" Web 2.0 trick (see "Web 2.0 Pharma Marketing Tricks for Dummies").

Last night (Nov. 14) Wired Science aired the video "The Business of Disease" on primetime TV (PBS). The main attraction was a demonstration of an RLS simulator "designed as an awareness piece for the physician community ... so they will have a better understanding of the science" (see "RLS Simulator: Weird Wired Science").

BTW, the Wired Science video is real journalism as opposed to the CR video. The WS piece includes interviews with physicians and marketing experts, including my friend Rich Myer over at World of DTC Marketing blog. Thanks to my recommendation to the Wired Science people, Rich was interviewed at his home where he had this to say about the role of marketing:

"Creating a need, that's what marketing is all about," said Myer. "If people don't know they have a need, create a need."
Amen, brother!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Do You Buy AdAge's Thesis About Frayed Attention Disorder?

According to Advertising Age, Americans Long for a Chance to Rest, Replenish and Reboot. We are, says AdAge, "Whipsawed by Stimuli" and "Our Attention Is Fraying and Disorders Are Multiplying."

I call it Frayed Attention Disorder (FAD).

What's the cause?

According the AdAge reporter, what's causing FAD in Americans is all the bad news about "Car bombs in Iraq. Car bombs in Afghanistan. Coordinated car bomb attacks in Pakistan. And then -- to vary the tempo -- a visit to the funeral of the victim of a car bombing (that gets car bombed)."

Could it be something closer to AdAge's home causing FAD?

Please read my comments on Pharma Marketing Blog and join me in blasting this thesis.

Mirapex Buzz Marketers Make Hay from RLS Foundation's Attack on Video Spoof of Requip Ad

I find myself blessed! Buzz marketers have me on their short list of people/bloggers to notify about issues that benefit their lords and masters.

Today, for example, I received a comment from that guy "Anonymous" who notified me that the Restless Leg Syndrome Foundation urged its "members" to cancel their subscriptions to Consumer Reports because of the "extremely sarcastic and insulting video" that spoofs a Requip TV ad.

You can read all about this, including the comments I received from the Mirapex user (aka, Mirapex buzz marketer), links to the CR video and RLS Foundation letter to CR, in today's post to Pharma Marketing Blog: "RLS Foundation (aka GSK?) Calls for Boycott of Consumer Reports Over Ad Spoof".

I suspect several other bloggers will receive similar comments from "Mirapex users." Ed Silverman over at Pharmalot wrote a short piece about the CR Requip video spoof. So far, I haven't seen any other bloggers chime in on this. My advice is to take a look at the RLS Foundation's letter -- it has enough material in it for a dozen blog posts!

Meanwhile, have you seen Peter Rost's post on NRx about the man who grew roots like a tree? This is a classic, must-see Rost post! I am not sure, but it may also be a plug for a Discovery TV documentary scheduled to air this week. Keep up the good work Peter!

Thursday, November 8, 2007

The Tortured Tchotchke and the Thanksgiving Turkey Giveaway

Pharmalot and Pharma Marketing Blog have both reported on FDA's letter to Scios "requesting" that it cease dissemination of violative Natrecor computer mouse pad and pen tchotchkes that it has been giving as gifts to physicians.

The mouse pad is pictured at the left.

FDA cited these baubles as "inappropriate reminder labeling." Read more what the FDA said here.

Speaking of "reminders," all this language and imagery reminds me of waterboarding and the recent confirmation hearings for attorney general nominee Michael Mukasey, who has refused to categorically reject the practice as torture.

More importantly, however, is the "gift" that FDA gave Scios: about two weeks to "respond" to the FDA complaint with a "plan" for how it will comply. Who knows what the plan's timeline for compliance will be, but I wouldn't be surprised if the Scios reps were able to unload ALL the Natrecor tchotches stockpiled in their garages by Thanksgiving, thus saving Scios a lot of money, which could be used to buy holiday turkeys for ALL Scios employees!

Thank you, FDA!

P.S. Drug Rep Toys, for once didn't scoop us on this!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

'Round the Sphere: Pharma Giles' Lyrics and NRX's NOTES

Last week I challenged -- well, not exactly challenged; more like offered a prize -- to any pharma blogger who would rewrite the lyrics to "Puttin' On the Ritz" so that they were relevant to the pharmaceutical industry.

Pharma Giles was up to the challenge (read his lyrics here).

Giles suggests it would make for a "pretty funny (if gut-churning) video" and I agree. Anyone out there willing and able to give it a shot? Or at least find some still images to accompany the lyrics.

The feminine "tails" and top hat image shown here was used by Giles in his post.

Meanwhile, Rost at NRx was glimpsing the future of natural orifice transluminal endoscopic surgery (NOTES) in a provocative post entitled "Surgeons remove gallbladder through vagina." Go ahead and read it. You know you can't resist!

This is the image Rost included in his post.

Does anyone see a problem here?

What's the gall bladder doing way up there under this woman's breasts?

Not that I'm turned on by this medical graphic, but did the artist relocate the gall bladder just to bring in the outline of the breasts?

Inquiring minds want to know!

Friday, November 2, 2007

Mack Palsy-Walsy with Chase, Editor-in-Chief at MM&M

What happens when two editors get together at a fancy dress party with an open bar?

Smashed, that's what!

Here's James Chase, Editor-in-Chief at MM&M, and me whooping it up at the 2007 MM&M Awards after party last night at the Tavern on the Green in NYC.

I am sure James was smashed. I was merely inebriated.

That's James posing with me on the left.

I liked James right off the bat because he impressed me by being intimately familiar with my writings at Pharma Marketing Blog. He especially liked the post "Awards. What Are They Good For?".

As I said, awards are good for parties and the MM&M party is right up there with the best. It was very much like a very expensive wedding party!

Thanks James for having me as a guest.

[Read more about the MM&M Awards ceremony here, including who the winners were and what could have hapenned if I acted out my Borat moment.]

Thursday, November 1, 2007

I'm Puttin' on the Ritz Tonight!

A Gold Award goes to any blogger in the Pharma Blogosphere who can rewrite these lyrics to fit the gala black tie event I will be going to tonight!

Have you seen the well-to-do
Up and down park avenue
On that famous thoroughfare
With their noses in the air

High hats and narrow collars
White spats and lots of dollars
Spending every dime
For a wonderful time

Now, if you're blue
And you don't know where to go to
Why don't you go where fashion sits
Puttin on the ritz
Different types who wear a daycoat
Pants with stripes and cutaway coat
Perfect fits
Puttin on the ritz

Dressed up like a million dollar trooper
Trying hard to look like gary cooper

Come, lets mix where rockefellers
Walk with sticks or umbrellas
In their mitts
Puttin on the ritz

Tips his hat just like an english chappie
To a lady with a wealthy pappy
Very snappy

You'll declare its simply topping
To be there and hear them swapping
Smart tidbits
Puttin on the ritz

See "AbelsonTaylor and I are off to the 2007 MM&M Awards Gala Event!"

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Pick Your Halloween Costume

Do you have a costume for the Pharma BlogosphereTM Halloween party? You can choose from the following. See below for some notes that may help you make your choice.

1 -- Sorry. This one is reserved for a certain gossipy US expat Brit blogger.
2 -- If you are a nerdy pharmacist blogger, maybe this would be a good choice for you. But I had some wankers in mind for this one.
3 -- The Judge. 'nuff said.
4 -- Who's hot and breathing fire these days? If that's you, then choose this one.
5 -- Available.
6 -- Well, there's a lot of these out there. But none of you who read this blog. Just for laughs.
7 -- Available.
8 -- A certain Swedish blogger has been associated with this guy. But if I were him, I'd go with #14.
9 -- Works well for "Cafe" denizens. If you frequent such a place, try this one on for size. But watch out! You may run into the real McCoy!
10 -- This is the logical choice for the kitty among us. Haven't heard from you lately. Maybe the cat's got your tongue.
11 -- Any former pharma reps here? This would be you. If yo are a guy, see #14.
12 -- Available. Suitable for any male blogger with a full head of dark hair.
13 -- See #3. If you are a Web 2.0 magician, then you might want to wear something like this.
14 -- See #8.
15 -- Reserved for a certain medieval-sounding blogger. See also #12.
16 -- Appropriate for an old school liberal blogger.

The "Dream" Pharma Blog Panel

Have you voted for your "dream" pharma blog panel yet?

I am trying to put together a panel that could participate in an industry conference or in an online virtual roundtable discussion.

Please help me out.

Select your dream members by taking the following poll. You will be able to see the results after you vote. If I left someone off the list, please add that name to the comments to this post.


Select the Members of YOUR "Dream" Pharma Blogger Panel
Mack/Pharma Marketing Blog
Myer/World of DTC Marketing
Giles/Pharma Giles
Shanley/On Pharma
Hensley et al/WSJ Health Blog
Carlat/The Carlat Pschiatry Blog
Lowe/In the Pipeline
Monseau/JNJ Blog
Pitts/Drug Wonks
Someone Else/Not Listed

Takeda/Rozerem: Not so good!

Consumers International (CI), which claims to be the only independent global campaigning voice for consumers, yesterday accused Takeda Pharmaceuticals -- marketer of the sleep aid Rozerem -- of "taking advantage of poor US regulation and advertising sleeping pills to children, despite health warnings about pediatric use." To honor that achievement, CI awarded Takeda a 2007 International Bad Product Award (see press release).

In fact, Takeda was the overall winner!

For more about this, see today's post to Pharma Marketing Blog.

Meanwhile, PharmaGossip reports that "Takeda tumbles in Tokyo." Can these two events be related? Or is it just good karma?

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Mystery Blog Panel Revealed

A few months ago, Ed Silverman over at Pharmalot, asked me if I would like to participate on a blog panel he planned to moderate at an upcoming DTC Perspectives conference (see "Do Pharma Blogs Have Any Influence?"). At the time, however, I was embroiled in a tiff with Bob Ehrlich (see "Mack and Meyer Clash with Publisher Over 'Journalistic Integrity'"), the chairman of DTC Perspectives. So I assumed that neither Myer nor I would be invited. Ed made no promises and I told him not to worry -- he shouldn't go out on a limb to get me invited.

Well, I wasn't invited, which is OK. This is not sour grapes. I was busy presenting at another conference elsewhere anyway (see "J&J Blog, Shire PR: The Whole Story and Nothing But the Whole Story!").

I have since made amends with Bob and helped his people promote the DTC conference by being a Media Sponsor. I did hope to attend the blog panel session and report on it, but in the end I decided that I couldn't afford to be out of the office, spending 4 hours driving back and forth to attend a 45-minute session. I hoped that Ed would blog about it on Pharmalot -- but so far, he has said nothing.

In fact, Ed and Bob had been very secretive as to who exactly would be the bloggers on the panel. The conference agenda on the website just said "Bloggers/Panelists to be announced" and even when asked, Ed refused to name the panelists. Even up to the day of the conference, Ed remained mute on that subject (see his post, above).

Why all the secrecy, I wonder?

Here's a report on the panel from Christiane Truelove, author of the Pharma Blogs: Week in Review e-newsletter:

Bloggers on pharma blogging
Yesterday I left the office and made the trek up to Parsippany, N.J., to participate on a panel about pharmaceutical blogging at a conference hosted by DTC Perspectives. Mr. Silverman had invited me to participate, and I was flattered. I am unaccustomed to public speaking, having spent most of my career lurking around with a notebook and pen and asking the questions, instead of having questions asked of me.

The more-than-two-hour-drive along Route 287 notwithstanding, the panel, which examined whether pharmaceutical blogs were influencing consumers and opinion leaders, went pretty well. Some of the highlights:

Mr. Silverman touched on how blogs create the opportunity to exploit word-of-mouth communication. Most of all, pharmaceutical blogs give an opportunity for people from very different areas a chance to mingle and network — physicians, industry people, and consumers. “These were people who two years ago, weren’t connecting with each other,” he says.

For Mr. Hensley, the comments to posts on the Wall Street Journal Health Blog are extremely interesting because of the intelligent level of the discourse. “Sometimes the blog is just a starting-off point,” he says.

Mr. Pitts says although the pharmaceutical industry may wish these blogs to go away, blogging — “a wonderful, terrible, unexpurgated type of media” — is here to stay, and the industry must learn how to deal with it. He pointed out that certain types of stories are getting deeper coverage in the blogs rather than the mainstream media.

In answer to an audience question as to how companies should address legal fears about participating in the online conversation, the panelists generally agreed that the corporate lawyers always will give the most conservative advice. Mr. Pitts pointed out that the FDA regulations about online communication as far as blogs were concerned were practically nonexistent, and companies that want to engage in more online communication should be able to prudently handle what risk there may be.
The "blogger" panelists -- Ed Silverman (Newark Star-Ledger/Pharmalot), Scott Hensley (Wall Street Journal/Health Blog), Peter Pitts (Manning Selvage & Lee/Drug Wonks), and Christiane Truelove (MedAdNews) -- were of all one stripe: journalists or PR hack! It can be debated whether or not they are representative of the Pharma Blogosphere community as a whole, but at least they know the territory and are familiar with all the luminaries.

A Hack-in-the-Pack
Peter Pitts (the PR hack-in-the-pack), however, would not have been on my list of invited panelists. He is neither trustworthy nor transparent. Pitts is the biggest shill for the pharma industry there is. Don't take my word for it, read what GoozNews has to say about him here.

Pitts often uses words I do not understand like "unexpurgated" to describe blogs! (I looked it up on Google: it means "not having material deleted" or "uncensored news reports".) That's very funny coming from a guy who is known to delete posts from his own blog (see "DrugWanks Pull Post")!

OK, so it wasn't my dream blogger panel! But who would be on such a dream panel? Give me your opinion by taking this simple poll (see results so far after you vote):

Select the Members of YOUR "Dream" Pharma Blogger Panel
Mack/Pharma Marketing Blog
Myer/World of DTC Marketing
Giles/Pharma Giles
Shanley/On Pharma
Henessey et al/WSJ Health Blog
Carlat/The Carlat Pschiatry Blog
Lowe/In the Pipeline
Monseau/JNJ Blog
Pitts/Drug Wonks
Someone Else/Not Listed

Friday, October 26, 2007

'Round the Sphere: Marc v. Mack, POE v. MM&M, Commuincation v. Nooses

A few of us blogger denizens of the Pharma BlogosphereTM were out and about attending and/or presenting at pharma industry conferences this week.

Marc Monseau -- J&J BTW blogger -- and I teamed up at the Digital Pharma conference in Princeton, NJ, to do our audience-participation point-counterpoint routine on whether or not the pharmaceutical industry should embrace Web 2.0 (see "J&J Blog, Shire PR: The Whole Story and Nothing But the Whole Story!").

It was such a great success that I am thinking of trademarking it. But I'm afraid J&J might sue me, so I won't! ;-)

Ed Silverman at Pharmalot interrupted his busy blogging schedule to moderate a panel discussion at another pharma industry meeting hosted by DTC Perspectives in Parsippany, NJ. The panel of bloggers addressed the question, "Do Pharma Blogs Have Any Influence?"

This was a mystery panel -- the blogger panelists were not announced prior to the meeting although at one point it was rumored that Peter Rost was invited. But I think Peter was busy making a speech in the Swedish Parliament.

I planned to attend, but other business kept me tied down in my office. Perhaps Ed will enlighten us on the details later in a post to Pharmalot. I know my ears were burning all day!

What I do know is that DTC Perspectives had their annual POE awards dinner the night before and announced the winners of the most innovative DTC campaign. I had predicted the Gold and Silver winners, but was surprised and disappointed by the Bronze winner.

I didn't attend that event either because I rather be watercolor painting! This is my first composition. like it?

But I will be attending the even more gala, Black-Tie MM&M awards ceremony at Tavern on the Green in Central Park, NYC, on Thursday, November 1. For more on this, see "Awards: POE vs. MM&M. I Pick Winners!"

Finally, on a more serious note, Fard Johnmar over at HealthcareVOX blog, went "off topic" to comment on racist "gestures" like nooses hung on trees and doors and the brouhaha over a statement attributed to James Watson, winner of the Nobel Prize as co-discoverer of DNA's molecular structure. See Fard's comments here.

According to, Watson was quoted Oct. 14 in the Times of London saying he was "inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa'' because "all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours -- whereas all the testing says not really.''

Ever since I read Watson's book, The Double Helix, I realized he was a pr*ck! His comment about Africans just confirms it. Let's put racism aside for a moment. May I ask, WTF do social policies have do with intelligence? I mean, should charity and financial aid go to only intelligent people rather than to anyone in need regardless of their intelligence?

Fard suggests that we should not waste our time condemning these idiots but rather counteract racist beliefs with communication:

So, I have a simple suggestion for communicators of all colors and creeds. People are quoting the 'science,' IQ tests and SAT scores to suggest that Blacks and Whites are not of equal intelligence. They also rely on anecdotal evidence, saying "look around, you can't help but notice that most Blacks don't take advantage of the opportunities they have in this country." If we want to change these beliefs, we have to replace assumptions with the facts. Show people why they are wrong by citing examples of the quiet, unheralded contributions Blacks are making in business, science, education, law and other areas. Condemnation is good, but saying 'this is wrong' and going back to business as usual two weeks later is criminal.
Fard cites a few names of Blacks that have made unheralded contributions to our society. What I want to know is, where are they in the pharmaceutical industry? I know they are there! I've met a few at industry meetings like Digital Pharma and have written at least one story in my newsletter about the work of a Black pharma product manager.

Women pharmaceutical executives have the Healthcare Businesswomen's Association but where is the Black Pharma Businessperson Association?

Fard, I think it would be a great idea to seek out Black professionals in the pharmaceutical industry and begin telling their stories. Let's ask Marc Monseau for help -- he may be interested in getting J&J employee stories posted to his blog!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Mike the headless Chicken

Pfizer Inc. Chief Executive Jeffrey Kindler's decision to scrap an unpopular drug bucked an unspoken industry rule, according to a Wall Street Journal article ("Pfizer Breaks With Norm by Scrapping Drug"). Namely, products can linger on life support as long as they pose no safety problems.

This reminds me of the story of Mike the Headless Chicken (read it here). Mike the Headless Chicken (April 1945 – March 1947; pictured above) was a Wyandotte rooster (cockerel) that lived for 18 months after its head had been cut off.

There's a parable here:

  1. Exubera could have been Pfizer's headless chicken and lived for 18 months if Kindler didn't kill it; or
  2. Pfizer is now a headless chicken until it finds another blockbuster drug.
You decide. Read my interpretation on Pharma Marketing Blog.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

'Round the Sphere: Best Exubera Failure Headline/Graphic. And the Winner is...

Pfizer's announcement that it will no longer invest in the marketing or sale of Exubera set off multiple posts around the Pharma Blogosphere.

There were quite a few creative headlines and accompanying graphics.

Let's start with Pharmalot, which is often first up at bat, even though clean-up may often be better. "Pfizer Profit Plunges; Exubera Goes Up In Smoke," said Ed Silverman. To emphasize his point, Ed included a graphic image of a wisp of smoke.

Not bad. I suppose Ed was thinking about the "bong" nickname given the Exubera delivery device by many bloggers. And bongs are used to "smoke" dope. But Ed should have saved his headline and graphic in case Chantix -- another Pfizer drug -- goes bust. The smoke metaphor would make more sense for a smoking cessation drug than a drug that treats diabetes.

There is, however, another interesting connection between Exubera and smoke: Back in October, 2005, I noted that Phillip Morris was attempting to partner with the drug industry to bring to market a unique drug-delivery system it had developed for nicotine delivery (see "Tobacco & Drugs: Strange Bedfellows"). The Exubera bong was the first commercial application of that principle for delivering drugs through inhalation.

This fact was not lost to Pfizer employees over at CafePharma:

"On a different note, doesn't anyone realize that Exubera is a whole lot more than a drug? Its a new technology that will open the floodgates on development of other Pfizer medications that are currently only administered by injection. I believe the success of the process is worth more to the company than the product ever was going to be. I truly believe that the success of Exubera has already been attained in some eyes. Approved commercial use of a system that can take a liquid and safely convert it to be administered in an inhalable form. I once read somewhere that Terre Haute was being labeled by Pfizer as its Inhale production facility for the world. I think Exubera is just a piece in the proverbial puzzle for Terre Haute. The facility already has the square footage available to contain multiple product lines."

In the post I wrote over at Pharma Marketing Blog -- entitled "Exubera Bong Bombs!" -- I used "bomb" and "bong" together in the title for the alliterative value.

I also wanted to use the Hindenburg explosion as an image.

So, I superimposed the Exubera bong over the Hinderburg and voila! I came up with the image shown here, which isn't bad for 6 AM in the morning without Photoshop!

In the back of my mind I was thinking that this would be a great image for Pharma Giles to use as one of his "101 uses for the Exubera bong."

Interestingly, Giles read my post and created his own "bong bombs" Hinderburg image in his post "'Oh! The Humanity!..."

I am the first to admit Giles' superior graphic skill, which is demonstrated in the image below.

It really looks like a giant Exubera bong going down in flames! Too bad we won't see any of the eighty-odd images Giles was hoping to post over the next few months as part of the "101 Uses..." series.

The Wall Street Health Blog took the bomb analogy to extremes by displaying the image of an atomic bomb exploding in its follow-up post entitled "With Partners Like Pfizer, Nektar Needs Enemies?"

I think this is a bit over the top.

No doubt Scott Hensley felt his original post ("Pfizer Gives Last Rites to Exubera") was graphically-challenged and lacked the pizzazz of my and Giles' Hinderburg explosion, so he had to over compensate in his follow-up post.

Next time, Scott, check with Pharma Marketing Blog first so you can one-up me in a more timely fashion!

Saving the best for last, I note that Peter Rost over at NRx is asleep at the wheel again and remains content to leave up his image of a woman with big boobs to illustrate the important news that the smell of women's breasts (during breastfeeding) drive other women wild (see "New drug therapy: Smell of breasts drive women wild"). What Rost is really proving is that MEN go wild over the SIGHT of women's breasts -- and since there are many more men reading blogs than women, Rost scores technorati points for keeping the breast post at the top of his blog list for several days while the drug industry burns and bombs all around him!

All this makes me think I need to improve my graphic skills or at least use more advanced computer graphic tools! I do plan to do this when I finally migrate to a Macintosh, but for now I will be content to satisfy my creative urges through watercolor painting! I've just started an adult education watercolor painting course at my local community college and it's like being young again and living in NYC -- before the personal computer was even a gleam in the eye of Steve Jobs and that other rich guy (what's his name?).

P.S. I think the winner for best graphic should go to Pharma Giles, whereas I must say my headline is the best in that category! Feel free to disagree.

P.P.S. This Just In! A Titanic Failure! Submitted by PharmaGossip (see "Pfizer - Exubera: without a trace"). Here's the image:

Jack Friday has a contender for best image, but his headline should have been "Exubera: A Titanic Failure!"

Not only would that title complement the image, but it would accurately describe the failure of Exubera, which the Wall Street Journal today (Oct 19, 2007) said was "one of the drug industry's costliest failures ever." "This is one of the most stunning failures in the history of the pharmaceutical industry," said Mike Krensavage, an analyst at Raymond James & Associates.

We haven't heard such comments since the sinking of the Titanic!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Pfizer Has Larger Fish to Fry!

"For now, we see in a mirror, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know fully even as also I was fully known." -- Cor. 13:12

The recent announcement of the Pfizer-Sermo deal has been discussed by practically every blogger in the Pharma Blogosphere and beyond!

Is Pfizer in this to promote its products to Sermo docs?

Reading all these blog posts and articles written about the deal would lead you to believe that that is what's behind this.

But I think Pfizer has much larger fish to fry than a mere 30,000 Sermo physicians!

Read about this in today's post to Pharma Marketing Blog: "Pfizer has a Gold Mine in Sermo!"

Friday, October 12, 2007

Will Chantix be Viagra II for Pfizer?

Chantix takes the place of nicotine and like nicotine stimulates dopamine production, which "gives you a feeling of pleasure."

What I didn't realize is that the pleasure involves vivid, memorable dreams, which is a "side effect" that Pfizer describes as "changes in dreaming."

I found that interesting, so I decided to mine some social networks to find examples of dreams that Chantix users were reporting.

What I learned leads me to believe that Pfizer may have a "Viagra II" in Chantix and not realize it!

For more on this, with examples of Chantix-induced pleasure dreams, the connection to George Clooney, and my idea for a new Chantix DTC ad campaign, read today's post to Pharma Marketing Blog.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Welcome New Blog: The Science Business

Another mainstream media/journalism blog has joined the Pharma Blogosphere: The Science Business. It is written by Matthew Herper who is an Associate Editor at Forbes (see photo on left).

Matthew looks like a serious, no-nonsense dude! I don't expect to see frivolous posts about the shelf-life of men or scary commercials from this guy.

According to Matthew: "The Science Business [is] a blog focusing on how companies affect and are affected by research in biology, medicine, chemistry and physics. Biotech and pharmaceutical firms, whose stocks trade on research results, will be a primary focus here, but I'll try to cast a wide net for other kinds of science as well."

Here's Matthew's first post:

First, a look at one of the most puzzling mysteries in pharmaceutical science right now: Why did Pfizer's drug to boost good cholesterol, torcetrapib, fail, and does that mean similar pills from Merck and Roche are goners as well? New data on Merck's pill provides some clues.

Torcetrapib was supposed to be Pfizer's savior when its Lipitor goes off patent three years from now. High levels of good cholesterol, also known as HDL or high-density lipoprotein, seem to protect the heart by carrying heart-attack-causing artery plaque out of the body, like a garbage truck. Torcetrapib boosted HDL 60% or more.

But the torcetrapib actually seems to have caused deaths in a big clinical trial, and nobody knows why. This could be because torcetrapib boosted blood pressure, a known risk for heart attacks, but it could also be the HDL it produced, instead of preventing heart disease, actually caused it.

How could that happen? Torcetrapib -- and similar drugs from Roche and Merck -- raise HDL by blocking the cholesterol ester transfer protein (CETP). Doing this raises blood levels of HDL, but the HDL may actually be full of cholesterol. The result is kind of like having a lot of garbage trucks on the street, but they're all full.

If raising cholesterol by blocking CETP out of the water were a good thing, Merck's drug would have blown torcetrapib out of the water. Because their drug doesn't raise blood pressure, Merck scientists were able to boost good cholesterol 130%, and cut bad cholesterol, or LDL, by 40% -- as much as a low dose of Lipitor.

So was this good cholesterol, well, good? One marker of heart disease risk is a protein called lp-a; the Merck drug lowered that. But it didn't affect C-reactive protein, or CRP, which a measure of how inflamed artery plaque is. More inflammation means the plaque is more likely to burst and cause a heart attack. So maybe the cholesterol wasn't so good. More information on CETP-blocking drugs should emerge at the annual meeting of the American Heart Association in a month.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

'Round the Sphere: Mandatory Gardasil Vaccination Politics Make Strange Bedfellows

Are you for or against mandatory vaccination of school girls with Gardasil? Are you afraid to be against it and thus painted as a right-wing religious conservative!

There have been several posts within the Pharma Blogosphere today on this issue.

First up is PharmaGossip's post "Merck - Gardasil: fatal side effects?," which suggests a hint of doubt about the veracity or scientific merit of a report from "US public interest group" Judicial Watch regarding the release of documents that link Gardasil to as many as 11 deaths since its approval in the market. I only note that Jack Friday does not identify this group as a "conservative, non-partisan educational foundation."

Compared to Jack Friday, Ed Silverman over at Pharmalot is a flaming liberal -- at least when measured by his slant on this story. In his post, "Gardasil: Conservative Group Trumpets Side Effects", Ed starts right off questioning the mission of Judicial Watch by use of the phrase "bills itself as a conservative public interest group that 'advocates high standards of ethics and morality in our nation’s public life,'"

"This is, essentially, another front in the battle against Gardasil. By issuing such press releases, Judicial Watch not only caters to its core constituency - social conservatives who worry the HPV vaccine will be seen as a green light to premarital sex among teenagers - but also plays on the concerns of parents who are undecided whether to vaccine adolescent girls (Gardasil isn’t yet approved for teenage boys) and question mandated vaccination."
Ed thus categorizes opinions about mandatory vaccination as a battle front with religious conservatives on one side and everyone else on the other.

May I dare say that it is not as black and white as that?

In my post to Pharma Marketing Blog, "Gardasil: Is the Risk of Being "One Less" Worth It?," I see the evidence presented by Judicial Watch as a test case of the new pharmaceutical industry "balance benefits vs. risks" mantra.

After all, even Big Pharma CEOs like Lilly's Sidney Taurel are calling for better systems to "quickly identify both the true benefits and the full extent of risks associated with medicines in widespread use."

Presumably, physicians in consultation with patients represent the best way to determine whether a drug or vaccine is right for a particular patient based upon known risks vs. expected benefits. If Gardasil vaccination is mandatory, that kind of conversation with the physician is not an option. This goes against every liberal notion of "patient empowerment."

Therefore, I propose "patient empowerment" as the liberal battle cry and battle front against mandatory Gardasil vaccination!

BTW, I argued this point with the former blogger in charge at NRx before he left for journalism school. As of this writing, the current author of NRx has not written about this issue, but has instead posted important information about how easy it is to read gibberish and a YouTube video that is no longer available! Just so you know where the priorities are.

Friday, October 5, 2007

'Round the Sphere/Week in Review: Let's Party!

From the looks of things, we are ALL working too hard! We need a party! And I don't mean a virtual party.

I'm trying to organize a real life Halloween party in my neck of the woods (Newtown, PA).

Here's the map:

View Larger Map

There are many pharma-related businesses right here in Newtown. Of course, the Pharma Marketing Network/News empire is located here.

PharmaLive/Engel Publishing, which brings us Pharma Blogs: Week in Review written by Christiane Truelove, is also in Newtown. Would you believe I am in walking distance of their offices and have never met Christiane. I've probably seen her crossing Newtown-Yardley Road to get lunch at the deli -- Watch Out! I don't break for competitors!

It was actually Christiane that gave me the idea for a party -- she's obviously been working very hard and wasn't able to get out her newsletter for the last couple of weeks! But it's back today! Here's an excerpt:

On Thursday, Dr. Daniel Carlat testified at the Massachusetts State House on a bill to control health-care costs in Massachusetts. One part of the bill would ban most drug company gifts to doctors. Dr. Carlat shared with readers an incident that happened to him, when a rep’s gift influenced his prescribing decision. “The fact is that pharmaceutical gifting is an effective marketing technique, as much as physicians deny that their medical opinions can be swayed by such small dispensations,” Dr. Carlat says.

Speaking of gifts, John Mack of the Pharmaceutical Marketing Blog talks about the mixed messages from Lilly in offering a paper-sorting tray to Cymbalta-prescribing physicians. While Mr. Taurel was urging the health-care industry to go to electronic records, Lilly’s mailer for Cymbalta was proclaiming that the paperless office is a myth and offering the letter tray to help keep physicians’ offices organized. “But the story is more than the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing,” Mr. Mack says. “It's about drug safety and Lilly's lip service to drug safety.” Apparently these mailers were cited by FDA for making misleading efficacy claims and understating risk. Mr. Mack posts a story done by the Wall Street Journal here. “Perhaps Lilly and FDA need to go paperless in order to achieve better, more efficient communications so that they can understand one another,” Mr. Mack says.

And speaking of online electronic health records in the quest for the paperless office, Merrill Goozner of GoozNews talks about how Microsoft has unleashed its PR blitz for the Microsoft Health Vault, which would allow consumers to generate online personal health records. Mr. Goozner dissects a quote from Microsoft CEO Bill Gates in the Wall Street Journal, in which Mr. Gates points out that almost all test results, prescriptions, procedures, etc. are already recorded in digital form. “So, then, isn't it a simple task to insist that these electronic medical records be made available upon request to patients and other physicians (with patient approval)?” Mr. Goozner wonders. “Isn't it a simple task to pass a law that requires all physicians, hospitals and clinics transition to patient-available electronic medical records with portability if they wish to continue collecting fees from Medicare, Medicaid and other government programs, which account for nearly half of all direct health care expenditures?” He does concede that there will be interoperability and data-reporting standards that would have to be resolved. I think interoperability issues would be a significant problem — if you’ve ever had the joyous task of transferring files between an old home computer to a new model, you can imagine how much more of a nightmare is involved when putting together a system whose files can be easily transferred between the physician, health insurance company, and consumer. Thus, Microsoft is designing a system in which Mr. Gates says the patient can be the center and can decide who to share the health data with.

Mr. Mack is not too enthusiastic about the Health Vault offering. “Anyway, why would you entrust your personal health information with a technology company known to be prone to privacy and security lapses?” he wonders. “Wouldn't it make more sense to go with a service from a company with healthcare experience like Aetna or Wellpoint? While you may not trust health insurance companies, at least these companies must comply with health information privacy and security standards set by HIPAA and they have a good incentive to protect their clients' privacy — unlike Microsoft, their business depends upon it.”
As for the party -- let me know if you can make it. Costumes required -- I am sure we can get some ideas on what costume suits each of us from Pharma Giles!