Wednesday, February 28, 2007

eCTD Blog Enters The Pharma Blogosphere

When a door closes a window opens.... is that how it goes?

No sooner did we lose a member of The Pharma Blogosphere (Question Authority) than a new blog (eCTD) joins us!

eCTD blog is about the pharmaceutical industry in general, and the electronic submissions: the electronic common technical document (eCTD), the Product Information Management (PIM) and the Structured Product Labeling (SPL).

Not much else is known about who is behind this blog. So far, posts to eCTD are more about general pharmaceutical industry topics, including marketing, than about electronic/regulatory issues. But it's still early in eCTD's life cycle, so let's see how it goes.

The blog features the painting "Drug Store" by Edward Hopper who is probably more well-known for the painting "Nighthawks", which depicts famous actors in an all-night diner.

Commentary about "Drug Store":

"Most of the debate about managed care has focused on physicians and the quality of bedside care. Many have expressed dismay at one consequence of changes in health care, namely the loss of an ongoing relationship with a community physician. But similar changes, equally disturbing to some, have taken place in the pharmacy business, where the small-town corner pharmacy and the pharmacist who knows all of his/her customers and has time to talk with them about their medications are becoming things of the past. Chain, grocery store, even mail-order drug dispensaries have been heavily promoted by managed care organizations, driving out the small independent pharmacies. Hopper's homely storefront with its warmly glowing lights seems (unintentionally, of course) to symbolize that loss."
Maybe the author of eCTD chose this painting because he/she is an independent pharmacist who wishes to remain anonymous?

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Rost Hit By PhRMA's PPA Bus: Shuts Down Blog

Peter Rost has been hit by a PhRMA PPA (Partnership for Prescription Assistance) bus being driven at the time by PhRMA spokesperson Montel Williams. The photo below was taken just seconds before Rost was struck crossing the street.

Rost had recently announced that his hit book, "The Whistleblower", would soon be released as a documentary. He was also negotiating a feature film deal with undisclosed "big studios." "Those guys want closure before they sign on the dotted line," said Rost. It appears that there is now closure.

Witnesses say that the bus was stationary, parked at the curb, as Rost approached. Then, as Rost walked out in front, the bus suddenly lurched forward and knocked Rost down.

Rost, in an eerily prescient statement, quipped that from the studios' point of view "Ideal is if they get a lot of drama: Me killed by a bus with PhRMA painted on the side would apparently work."

Well, it wasn't exactly PhRMA painted on the side, but PPA!

Neither Pfizer nor Montel Williams would comment on the record. However, over at Cafe Pharma, several Pfizer employees remarked that with Rost eliminated Pfizer could now afford to reduce the price of its drugs across the board and really offer Americans some meaningful prescription assistance!

Actually, Peter informs us that "my job here [Question Authority] is pretty much done. So with that it is time for me to say goodbye; I need to focus on the creative process. Thank you for coming here, I wish you well and I'm grateful for the time you've spent reading my blog!"

Good luck, Peter. The Pharma Blogosphere will miss you!

Interview with Fard Johnmar of HealthcareVOX

Mixing Blogging and Business: An Interview with Fard Johnmar

  • Guest:
    • Fard Johnmar, M.A., founder of Envision Solutions

  • Air Date & Time: Wednesday, February 28, 2007, 1 PM Eastern US time
  • Duration: Approx. 30-45 minutes
  • Go to the Pharma Marketing Talk Channel Page for listening live and downloading audio archive instructions.
Fard Johnmar, the author of HealthcareVox, says his blog is focused on the wide, wide world of healthcare marketing communications. "By reading this blog," Fard says, "you'll get the skinny on breaking healthcare news (sometimes we'll be the first to report something), health policy, healthcare marketing, communications and other topics."

Fard also founded Envision Solutions, LLC, a healthcare marketing communications consultancy, which has its own official corporate blog. Part of Fard's consulting practice concerns media relations and managing crises.

Fard Johnmar
Fard Johnmar, M.A., founder of Envision Solutions, has extensive experience in the healthcare marketing communications arena. He has developed and implemented programs for numerous major global and domestic pharmaceutical companies, nonprofits, medical associations and government organizations. Pfizer Inc., Eli Lilly and Company, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Novartis Pharmaceuticals and the International Society on Hypertension in Blacks are just a few of the organizations he has completed engagements with.

Mr. Johnmar has special expertise in cardiovascular disease, mental health,
infectious disease, oncology, public health and health policy.

Mr. Johnmar holds a Master of Arts degree from New York University's well-regarded Gallatin School of Individualized Study in communications and health policy. He
completed his undergraduate degree at Amherst College where he earned a B.A.
in jazz ethnomusicology with additional concentrations in pre-medical studies and political science.

Mr. Johnmar writes regularly on healthcare marketing, policy and related subjects for
Know More Media (KMM), a leading global business blogging network and other publications.

His blog on KMM is titled HealthCareVox.

Some questions I plan to ask Fard include:
  • What were your motivations for starting HealthCareVox?
  • Your blog is part of the Know More Media network. Can you tell us more about that and why you chose to be part of that network rather than an independent blogger?
  • How do you decide what topics to write about?
  • How does HealthcareVox help you in your consulting practice and vice versa? Does your consulting practice influence your decision about blog topics? For example, I notice you are currently doing a series on the Biotech industry. Do you currently consult with some of the companies you write about?
  • What are your favorite blogs in the healthcare space and why?

Friday, February 23, 2007

This Week in the Blogosphere

A couple of blogger denizens of The Pharma Blogosphere -- namely, Ed Silverman (Pharmalot) and Derek Lowe (In the Pipeline) attended an event hosted by the dark side of the The Pharma Blogosphere; namely, the Center for Medicine in the "Public Interest" (CMPI) -- the folks that bring us the Drug Wonks blog (see "Drug Wonks Are PR Wonks").

The PR wonks at CMPI do not like the way the press covers the pharmaceutical industry as anyone who reads the Drug Wonks blog can tell. Just today was posted an entry entitled "Good Article But Selective Reporting?" critical of a Wall Street Journal story about Genentech's Avastin vs. Lucentis for the treatment of macular degeneration. I am not going to get into this topic, but I merely quote what Drug Wonks says at the end of the blog entry:

"[Genentech] must change the conversation with consumers and doctors by giving them different and better information.

"As it can see (no pun intended), the media will not do it for them...."
So you can see what CPMI thinks of the press -- they just aren't nice lap dogs to the industry! And this is how it feels about the Wall Street Journal, friend of the pharma industry. Imagine what they have to say about the New York Times!

I can't imagine, therefore, that Ed got a warm welcome. He hasn't commented on it yet, though. Derek, however, wrote some comments about the conference in his blog (see, for example, "CMPI Conference: Panel on Media Coverage").

Derek posited that the Vioxx debacle had a silver lining -- it started a debate about drug risk vs. benefit (or "reward" as Derek calls it). But Derek didn't think the debate was "informed," by which I infer that he sides with CPMI -- ie, the press needs to give us "better" information.

BTW, I was invited to the conference and it was free of charge. However, unlike Ed Silverman, I don't have a corporate expense account. At least he took the train and saved the Star-Ledger some dough.

Hacker Scare
Several of us were a bit worried that Peter Rost's Question Authority blog was under hacker attack or being censored by the CIA or NSA (see "Did the CIA Shut Down Question Authority?" and "Access denied...?").

But it was all a testosterone tango between Rost and Pfizer's law firm. Rost calls it a click-a-thon (see " Click-a-thon with Pfizer's lawyers") but I think "testosterone tango" sounds better, don't you?

Rost is confident he can win the good fight: "So how can I feel confident? Because raw power and money doesn't always win; if you don't believe me, check out a place called Iraq . . ."

I think he may suffer the fate of "good sir knight:"

This animated version features a briefcase swinging lawyer-like good sir knight:

Speaking of a testosterone tango!

Gardasil Again!
Is Jim Edwards off licking his wounds? He hasn't posted anything to BrandweekNRX for a couple of days after he characterized a few of his fellow bloggers as "pro-cancer" because they disagreed with him on mandatory vaccinations (see Jim's original post and comments at "Pro-Cancer Crowd Forces Merck to Cave on Gardasil") He received quite a few comments, including my own retort (see "Pharma Blogosphere Row Over Gardasil!").

That's all for now...back to work!

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Is Rost Losing It?

That Peter Rost over at Question Authority! What a show he puts on! Next he'll be shaving his head!

It all started a few days ago. First, visitors to his site we redirected to a YouTube video commercial for his book (see "Question Authority Link Re-directed to YouTube Ad"). I suspected he did this as a cheap marketing gimmick to sell his book.

Then, we're redirected to a CIA site and an NSA site (see "Did the CIA Shut Down Question Authority?"). I didn't think the CIA actually took over the site, but I was afraid -- as were many other Rost watchers -- that his site was hacked.

Then he apologizes and begins to blather on and on about unwelcome visitors to his blog "party"and that he wants to get rid of them.

Today we see the site redirected to the Epstein, Becker and Green PC web site. These guys are the lawyers that are defending Pfizer against Rost's whisleblower case, which I won't get into here.

Rost sent out an email -- maybe you got one -- entitled "Check out Pfizer's lawyers reaction when they can't get into my web site . . ." Rosts says "They're clickin like there is no tomorrow!!!" and he gives his URL:

What you get is this message: "Sorry, Epstein, Becker and Green. Your access is denied and we are watching you for a change." Then you are directed to the law firm's site; specifically to the bio of Ronald M. Green.

All this is great entertainment. Thanks Peter.

But pretty soon I am not going to click on Peter's bookmark to see what he is writing about. But I know he is doing it to get some publicity, so I thought I would help. Is this OK Peter? [He promised me a pair of Question Authority boxers.]

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Pharma Blogosphere Row Over Gardasil!

I had a very nice discussion with Jim Edwards (BrandweekNRX) on my Pharma Talk podcast Tuesday (listen to it here) . We really hit it off and I learned a thing or two.

Little did I know that the very next day Jim would position me in the "pro-family" camp that "want their daughters to get STDs and die of cancer" (see "Pro-Cancer Crowd Forces Merck to Cave on Gardasil"). What Jim said was:

"In the meantime, feel free to ask the 'pro-family' people why it is that they want their daughters to get STDs and die of cancer. Because I just don't understand it. And if my failure to understand this makes me 'biased,' as John Mack says, so be it."

Now, of course, I am pro-family because who could possibly be anti-family? I even have a family. And I certainly don't want daughters to die of cancer!

And I didn't say that Jim fails to understand anything because he is biased.

What I said was:

In his blog, Jim focuses his criticism on the promiscuity issue and puts himself squarely against the religious right. Now that I know his opinion of a major issue for the religious right, can I trust that his reporting on this topic in that publication will be 'journalistic' (ie, balanced)?
I wasn't passing judgement on his stand on mandatory vaccination. I was just wondering how to look at him as a journalist now that I know where he stands viz-a-viz the religious right.

In fact, I agree with Fard Johnmar, founder of Envision Solutions, LLC and blogger over at HealthcareVOX, who disagrees with Edwards who agrees with Governor Perry. BTW, I will be interviewing Fard on my podcast next Wednesday (see "Mixing Blogging and Business: An Interview with Fard Johnmar").

Fard said:
"I disagree with Edwards. I think that Merck recognized that the overall poor reputation of the pharmaceutical industry coupled with charges that its lobbying efforts weren’t designed to aid public health, pushing for mandatory vaccination was a bad move. In addition, should Merck’s vaccine turn out to have some nasty, previously unknown side effects (see Vioxx) it could be in a lot of trouble. No, better to wait and take the high road. Good call Merck." (See "Merck Pulls Plug On Gardasil Lobbying Effort").
I made a comment to Jim's original post, but for some reason it never got published. I must have pushed the wrong button.

What I said was that the mandatory vaccination issue was more complicated than "pro-family" choice. That is how Jim framed the argument, whereas I frame it as an issue of balancing benefit versus possible risk and letting people make there own choices. So I am really pro-choice!

Jim says "The Lone Star state has become an isolated test group for the effectiveness of the vaccine. The rest of the U.S. is the control group."

What if things go wrong in the test group? If people are going to be guinea pigs -- ie, part of a test group -- it is only ethical that they opt-in and know what the risks are. After all, drug companies don't recruit subjects for clinical trials without obtaining their permission first. If ovarian cancer was a great public health problem -- which it is not -- then the risk/benefit equation would be shifted and I might feel differently.

I think Jim stands pretty much alone in the Pharma Blogosphere on his accusation that anyone who is against Merck lobbying for mandatory vaccination is part of a "pro-cancer crowd."

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Did the CIA Shut Down Question Authority?

Today, when I try to access the Question Authority Blog at it's standard URL (, I get this;

And then I am redirected to what looks like a secure CIA server:

However, this generates a "Server Not Found" error message.

What's going on?

Has another blog in the Pharma Blogosphere been shut down or hacked?

Is the CIA involved?

Inquiring minds want to know!

Reminder: Live Podcast Interview with Jim Edwards


My guest is Jim Edwards, Senior Editor at Brandweek and blogger at BrandweekNRX.

The topic I'd like to pursue with Jim is "Will blogging corrupt journalists or vice versa?" The gauntlet on this issue was laid down by Matt Holt over at The Health Care Blog (see "Journalistic Suicide or Blog Assimilation?").

  • Air Date & Time: Tuesday, February 20, 2007, 1 PM Eastern US
  • Duration: Approx. 30-45 minutes
Go to the Pharma Marketing Talk Channel Page at the designated time to listen live via the Internet; or go there afterward to listen to audio archive.

You can call in by phone to ask questions or participate in the discussion (go here for instructions on how to do that. Please don't call in if you just want to listen. I can only open 5 phone lines at a time!

Other guests scheduled for future podcasts include:
  • Fard Johnmar (HealthcareVox): Wednesday, February 28, 2007, 1 PM Eastern
  • Mark Senak (EyeOnFDA): Tuesday, March 6, 2007, 1 PM Eastern
  • Cary Byrd (eDrugSearch Blog): Tuesday, March 20, 2007, 1 PM Eastern
Others to be announced.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Who is PharmaGossip's "Jack Friday" aka Insider?

One of may favoritest sites in the Pharma Blogosphere is PharmaGossip, which started up in September, 2005. I read it every single day.

PharmaGossip's author disguises his identity and uses the alias Insider, but often refers to himself as "Jack Friday."

Perhaps the name "Jack Friday" is a combination of two names of famous and infamous TV law enforcement characters -- Joe Friday (Dragnet) and Jack Bauer (24) . I seriously doubt, and hope that it's not true, that our Jack Friday could be a fan of Jack Bauer -- a character who would have been right at home at Abu Ghraib prison!

From Jack's profile and postings, we know he resides "somewhere" in GB. I suspect, therefore, that "Jack Friday" is merely a British form of "Joe Friday." Joe just is not a proper British name, even if it is a pen name or alias.

Let's continue with the gossip: What else do we know about Jack Friday?

Let me start it off by suggesting that if "Jack" remembers Dragnet, a show popular in the 60's, then he must be a member of the boomer generation.

The American Connection
Jack has a love-hate relationship with America. He seems to take an extraordinary interest in US politics and culture. Along with 67% of Americans, for example, Insider disapproves of George Bush and his Iraq war policy. This is clear from political posts often seen on PharmaGossip (see, for example, "Abu Ghraib Art" and "Have a great weekend everyone"). Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Of course, a lot of European bloggers may be interested in US politics these days, but I suspect Jack is an expatriate American. And since he rooted for the Bears in the Super Bowl, is a Cubs fan and likes Budweiser beer, I'd say he's from the midwest, perhaps even Chicago. He even knows about special events at Harry Caray’s Restaurant in Chicago (see "Cheers Harry!").
His curt profile refers to doctors, so we can assume Jack is a physician:
The term "PR" means somthing (sic) completely different to a medical doctor! "We are all born ignorant, but one must work hard to remain stupid." - Benjamin Franklin. 'It takes a wise doctor to know when not to prescribe." [See, he quotes a famous American, who, if anything, the Brits should hate because of his role in the American Revolutionary War in which we whooped their asses! This is another reason why I think Jack is an expatriate.]
His "Insider" alias suggests he is a physician working inside a pharmaceutical company -- maybe GSK or AZ, which are the two largest UK-based pharma companies that I can think of.

That's all that is "known" about Jack's identity and background -- and even this is conjecture! But it's all good gossip, which Jack should appreciate!

The Insider takes extraordinary pains to keep his identity secret. He would not even consent to an interview with me by phone with his voice disguised. But if you know more about Jack -- fictional or otherwise -- leave a comment. But seriously, don't "out" the guy if you really know who he is.

As much as we would like to learn the true identity of Insider, we must respect his wishes to remain anonymous. For if he were "outed" we would surely lose one of the best blogs in the Pharma Blogosphere. One famous pharma blogger may already have been outed and his blog shut down (see "Pharma Watch Author Outed?").

According to the first posting on PharmaGossip, Jack's mission is to "look at the pharmaceutical industry with a seasoned, if not cynical, eye and ...provide some insights into what is happening (and why) in Big Pharma. Spin will be sniffed out and gossip encouraged!"

PharmaGossip sometimes does come up with what seems to be "insider information," some of which may be contributed by readers, but most of the time sources of information for posts are publications and other blogs.

That brings me to why I like PharmaGossip so much -- Jack is quick to praise other bloggers. Many a time I have found a comment such as "Spot On!", "greatest post ever", etc. that Jack has left on my blog.

PharmaGossip is also there when you need help as when Derek Lowe, author of the blog In the Pipeline, needed a new job (see "Work Wanted").

Jack often features other blogger's posts in his blog and helps promote projects such as the First Ever Pharma Blogosphere Survey hosted by this site.

In the aforementioned poll, a sizable percentage of respondents read pharma-related blogs to be entertained. PharmaGossip has satisfied that need and then some. The blog is peppered with entertaining music videos, for example. There are also many "doctored" photos and cartoons.

As in some other blogs -- most notably Question Authority -- there is a fair amount of sexual content on PharmaGossip. This is not surprising considering that the vast majority of blogs in the Pharma Blogosphere are run by men (see "It's Raining Men in the Pharma Blogosphere") and maybe the readership also is mostly male.

But, unlike Question Authority, which will show you videos of super models having sex on the beach in Brazil, PharmaGossip's sexual content almost always relates to the pharmaceutical industry. One example of such a post is "Is this how Pfizer pick their new drug reps?", which features a video of a swim suit competetion at a Pfizer/Viagra sponsored racing event in Mexico. The women are purported to be prostitutes, which is not an illegal profession in Mexico.

The men sure seem to be enjoying the show, which was captured by a cell phone. You can follow the link on PharmaGossip to Pfizer's Mexican Web site, which promoted this event: "We invite you to this magnificent sport event and to Ignite your motors!" Or something to that effect. It sure ignited my motor! What the hell! He's the video, again (for men only!):

Why oh why did they boo numero cuatro?!!!

OK, so you can be entertained by PharmaGossip, but you can also keep up to date with industry news and gossip on a daily basis. Since the site originates in GB, aka UK, you will also learn a lot about pharma company shenanigans in Europe. This may not be too exciting for US readers, but there's a whole 'nother world out there and PharmaGossip is a great window into that world.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Rankle Over Rankings

It started with the PharmaGossip post "Who's hot in Pharma?", which compared the Huffington Post ranking of the "newsworthiness" of Peter Rost (Question Authority blogger) vs. his nemesis Pfizer CEO Jeff Kindler.

Insider at PharmaGossip then followed up with a similar newsworthiness comparison between Peter Rost and "John Mack" ("Who's hot in Pharma? 2"). I assume Insider was trying to compare me with Rost because what other John Mack could he know or care about?

It turns out that there are several famous "John Macks". One was a Harvard professor who was famous for psychoanalysing people who claimed to be abducted and probed by aliens. I have never been abducted, but lately I feel I'm being "probed" by fellow bloggers. One good turn deserves another, so I don't mind these jabs.

However, the most famous "John Mack" is Morgan Stanley chief executive John J. Mack. Obviously, this John Mack is in the news a lot and his rating trumps that of Peter Rost (168 points vs. 34).

Rost fired back with a few of his own ranking charts, one of which compares the rankings of various blogs in the Pharma Blogosphere (see "Wow. I guess Pfizer wouldn't like this."). He compares Question Authority, PharmaGossip, Pharmalot, and "PharmaMarketing," which I presume was meant to be "Pharma Marketing Blog" (my blog). The chart shows Question Authority way ahead of all of us! (20 for Rost, 0 for the rest of us!)

Unfortunately, Peter's chart is not accurate because he used the generic "Pharmamarketing" tag rather than my blog's brandname, which is Pharma Marketing Blog. Here is the chart with the proper tags:

Rost still beats us handily, but not by such a wide margin.

Which all goes to prove what?

Well, maybe we shouldn't be wasting our time on these cool tools, especially if we do not know how to use them properly. Also, maybe we shouldn't waste space on our official blogs with this tongue-in-cheek one-upmanship! That's why I started this blog.

Pharmalot ... Post-a-lot!

Depending upon how you interpret the play on words, Pharmalot could conjure up the fantastic world of pharmaceuticals a la Camelot -- with all its potential and promise, but heading for a fall -- or it could literally mean a lot about the pharmaceutical industry!

I think it's lot, not Camelot.

Ed Silverman, who is the "guy behind the curtain" at Pharmalot, has certainly been a prolific blogger! In one recent day (February 16, 2007) Ed posted 10 entries!

In comparison, I have posted about 340 entries to Pharma Marketing Blog between January, 2005 and February 16, 2007 -- about 0.44 entries per day, which is only about 4% the rate at which Ed works his magic!

There are other bloggers in the Pharma Blogosphere that post more than one entry per day to their blogs; PharmaGossip and Drug Wonks (see my review: "Drug Wonks Are PR Wonks") are two that come to mind. In PharmaGossip's case, the author ("Jack Friday" aka Insider), often merely posts a photo or video or text link to another blog or Web site. In the case of Drug Wonks, there is a bevy of contributors to spread the workload around.

But Ed appears to be a lone wolf at Pharmalot. How does he do it and still fulfill his duties as a veteran reporter for the Star-Ledger and as a father of three and master of a "sizeable labrador retriever?"

What's Behind the Curtain?
I suspect Ed has some help. The sheer volume of posts is one hint that Ed does not write all this stuff. The Pharmalot content is copyrighted by the Star Ledger ("all rights reserved" by the way). The newspaper must supply some help to Ed. I imagine a team of "cub" reporters "behind the curtain" with Ed, scanning news sources, fact checking, sourcing, headline writing, and producing draft copy that Ed edits.

It's all in a day's work for a "veteran" journalist.

Whatever the process, Ed manages to get his voice into it and his signature is the little quip he adds to the end of almost every post, as in the following examples:

"The legal battle may not be over, but Novartis is clearly losing the public relations war. But Dan Vasella doesn't appear to be listening." (Former Swiss Prez Tongue Lashes Novartis);

"Meanwhile, what will Novartis do with all those sales reps who were hired and primed to start pigeonholing doctors?" (Novartis' Galvus May Be Delayed: Analyst)
Dare I call these a bit "snarky?" which is a criticism I received once -- see "Snark Meter."

If it weren't for these little non-journalistic remarks, Pharmalot would be nothing more than a newsfeed. But Pharmalot is useful to me precisely as a newsfeed. It is one of the blogs in the Pharma Blogosphere that I read every day to "keep up" with what's going on in the industry. It's not a blog where I expect to find a lengthy discussion of issues.

Other journalist-driven blogs in the Pharma Blogosphere, like BrandweekNRX, take a different, more blog-like approach. But that's a topic for another review.

BrandweekNRX Up Next
I will be interviewing Jim Edwards, Senior Editor, Brandweek and creator of BrandweekNRX, on my Pharma Talk podcast this coming Tuesday, February 20, 2007, at 1 PM Eastern. For more information about this podcast -- how to listen live or access the audio archive -- see "Journalist Bloggers: An Interview with Jim Edwards."

Question Authority Link Re-directed to YouTube Ad

I notice than whenever I try to access Peter Rost's Question Authority blog using the link, I get redirected to his "Whisleblower" book video promo on YouTube.

First, if this is deliberate (and I cannot imagine how it could NOT be deliberate), why?

Second, there is no second except "Will this really help Peter sell more copies of his book?"

This is self-promotion gone wild!

P.S. Peter, how did you do this? I'd like to try it myself. ;-)

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Question Authority: Roasting Rost

Every once in awhile I will review a member blog of the Pharma Blogosphere. I already reviewed one of my least favorite blogs -- Drug Wonks (see "Drug Wonks Are PR Wonks"). Now it's time to review one of my favorites -- Question Authority with Dr. Peter Rost.

Peter -- and I think he won't mind me calling him Peter -- started out in the blogosphere under the auspices of the Huffington Post. It didn't take long for Peter and Huffington to tangle over censorship of one of his posts. This lead Peter to start his own blog (see "Rost to Roost in Blogosphere"). "Lot's of people have been writing about me," Peter told me, "so I think it's about time for me to start writing on my own."

And the rest is history, as they say. I don't have time to recount that history here, but I offer the following lists of articles and posts I have written about Peter over the past two years:

Peter Rost: Pharma's Black Knight
- Recounts how Peter reacted to Pfizer cutting off his arms and legs after his famous 60 minutes interview in which he defended drug reimportation. Of course, Peter has made a living Pfighting Pfizer. I imagine it must sometimes feel like a human confronting a polar bear: "When a male polar bear and a human are face to face, there occurs a brief kind of magic: an intense, visceral connection between man and beast whose poignancy and import cannot be expressed in mere words. Then he rips your arms off." (If you haven't read the New Yorker essay "ALL I REALLY NEED TO KNOW I LEARNED BY HAVING MY ARMS RIPPED OFF BY A POLAR BEAR," I urge you to find it and read it.)

Pharma's Black Knight Confesses All!
-- You might say that Peter Rost could write a book about Pfizer. Oh yeah! He did! I thought the book could have been juicier and name more names ("There is some dirt -- such as hints about who's sleeping with whom at Pfizer. How much more interesting this would have been in a fictionalized format with characters and details of trysts in corner offices! It definitely would have offered some relief and human interest interspersed between the legal documents, maneuvers and counter-ploys that fill the pages of the book;" see "Pharma's Black Knight Parties On!"). My poor review notwithstanding, the book was obviously a commercial success. You can read my review on

Rebranding is Good For You!
Recently, Peter rebranded himself as someone who questions authority. He renamed his blog "Question Authority with Dr. Peter Rost" and is currently selling T-shirts and mugs to promote that brand (see "Rost Spams!" and "Rost Raises the Issue of Libel: My Apology").

This brand fits Peter better -- he now is free to go after other symbols of authority and not just focus on the pharmaceutical industry. In fact, he never focused 100% on the pharmaceutical industry. This is just the next step in his transformation that I foresaw back in May, 2006 (see "Peter Rost: Whistle Blower, Pharma Blogger, ???").

Of course, if you are the top brand questioning authority, then you yourself may be questioned. Recently, for example, a commenter on Rost's blog noticed a photo of Peter using a "Dull" (ie, Dell) computer laptop in one of the many PR photos plastered all over Peter's site. The sighting lead to this comment:

Dissapointed (sic) to see one who "questions authority" to be using a bulky old Dell. I would have thought a creative cheeky "questioning authority" type such as yourself would be using a nice smart slim Apple Powerbook such as the one I'm typing this on.

Question Authority, question Bill gates and the M!cr0$oft monopoly.

I hope you're running Linux on the Dell ;-)
I can relate to this. I started my journey with computers on a DEC PDP-11 mini-computer, but my first personal computer was an Apple II and I have been a Mac user for years. But I also have a Dull computer, which I use for business. I can tell you one thing; I will never switch to Microsoft Vista! My next business computer will be a Mac!

I think a lot of us bloggers in the Pharma Blogosphere like to question authority. It's interesting, however, that some of us are in turn becoming authorities. I've been called several times by pharmaceutical companies who want to know more about blogs and what makes bloggers tick! Even journalists look upon some of us as authorities.

What makes us bloggers different from the authorities that Peter Rost questions is that we are teddy bears and not polar bears! We couldn't possibly rip the arms off anybody! And I say that in the nicest possible way.

P.S. Peter, please lose "Danielle," your talking avatar. She's annoying and she pronounces your name "roast," which couldn't possibly be right! Or is it?

P.P.S. Everyone should take Peter's advice when reading his blog and this post: "If you have no humor or if you are a boring person you are not supposed to read this blog."

Sunday, February 11, 2007

'Round the Sphere: a Rumble, Gangsta Jive, and Doggie Prozac Biscuits

Some weird sightings were made in the Pharma Blogosphere last week. Here's a partial list.

Rumble between Mack and Rost
Hey, if I'm not part of the pharma blogosphere news, then what am I doing here? It started out with me calling Peter Rost, beloved by all (except the pharma industry) blogger at Question Authority, a spammer (see "Rost Spams!").

I should have used a question mark instead of an exclamation point because Rost defended himself against the charge and seemingly took it up a notch in his blog (see "Pharmablogosphere: Spam or libel?"). You can see that Rost really knows when to use the question mark!

In any case, I saw the error of my ways and apologized ("Rost Raises the Issue of Libel: My Apology") and Rost accepted the apology ("Apology accepted, John!").

As Rost says, "A good fight can be entertaining . . ." Cary Byrd at eDrugSearch agrees (see "Rost vs. Mack: Let’s get ready to RUM-BLLLLLE!").

Whether or not it helps Peter sell T-shirts or The Pharma Blogosphere hone its image and readership, remains to be seen.

Gangsta Jive and Other Gadgets
It amazes me how bloggers in the pharma blogosphere are always finding ways to jazz or rather jive up their sites and entertain readers.

Of course, some sites, IMHO, are dull -- they lack even the pretense of entertaining their visitors. Many do not even include static graphics and photos. I'd put Drug Wonks and Pharma Gazette in this category. I won't say just yet how well these sites are doing in The First Ever Pharma Blogosphere Survey, but if you are a regular of those sites, you should participate in the survey and help their ratings! Is all I'm saying.
Other sites frequently use graphics, cartoons, and YouTube videos to entertain visitors. Recently, even more entertaining gadgets have appeared.

PharmaGossip was first to use a translator to develop a Gansta jive version of the blog called PharmaGizzle (see "Now PharmaGizzle joins the Blogosphere"). Question Authority soon followed suit.
"Fo all you beotches who wanna find shinit" and the gangsta version of this blog, click here. It's pretty cool.
I'm a little worried, however, that the Gizoogle translator adds a bit more than the original blogger had intended.

For example, here's how the Gizoogle translated a section of my recent post entitled "Early Bird Blogger vs the Journalist", which, now that I think of it, should have been entitled "Early Bird Blogger Beats the Journalist."
"Today, for example, I wrote about GSK's anti-smoking campaign antics (see "GSK: Don't Go Cold Turkey!"). This piece was published at 6:45 AM."

"Today, fo' example, I wrote 'bout GSK's saggin' campaign antics (see "GSK: Don't Go Cold Turkey! ") . Ya fuck with us, we gots to fuck you up. This piece was published at 6:45 AM gangsta style."
Where the f**k did "Ya fuck with us, we gots to fuck you up." come from? Is that just a gangsta jive phrase thrown in randomly? Or did Gizoogle read my thoughts between the lines, thoughts I didn't even know I had until I read this translation?

Scary stuff!

Speaking of scary, Rost continues to freak me out -- but in a good way! He added an animated female avatar "personal assistant" named "Danielle" to his Question Authority site.

Danielle urges visitors to look around and not to forget to "pick up a T-shirt or a book on the way out."

That's not the freaky part. After Danielle finishes her welcome speech, her head and eyes track your mouse as it moves around the page. Sometimes, you have to poke Danielle in the eye to recapture her attention, especially if you wander outside the main frame.

The avatar is a creation of SitePal and you can get a free trial version at, which promises that adding an agent to your site will "spice it up" and "increase client conversions." I haven't tried it ...yet!

I'd like to work for SitePal, because I have a whole raft of ideas for upgrades. For example, you should be able to tag each element (graphic, piece of text) of the page so that when the cursor floats over it the avatar says something about that element. This way Peter could have the avatar say something like this as you mouse over a T-shirt:
"Oh! That would look so cool on you! I'd go out with you in a minute if you wore that T-shirt! It's only $24.99. You can afford that, easy!"
But the avatar should be floating around so that you can see it as you scroll down below the fold.

How about it SitePal, do I have the job?

P.S. I'm not sure if Gizoogle or SitePal is to blame, but when exploring these sites I noticed that FireFox slowed to a crawl and I had problems switching between tabs, saving edits to this post, etc. This could be a side effect of using too much cool stuff to jazz up your site!

Doggie Prozac Biscuits
Someone wrote me about her 13+year old chow/australian shep. mix who is "sometimes extremely restless and acts anxious." I was happy to inform her that Lilly had a new "innovative" drug for that called "Reconcile," which is just plain old Prozac in chewable doggie biscuit form (see "Prozac for Over Anxious Doggie Syndrome").

While I focused on the fact that Over Anxious Doggie Syndrome (OADS) is a real medical condition afflicting at least 50% of dogs in the US (according to Reconcile spokesdog Lassie), Ed Silverman over at Pharmalot focused on the possible side effects, including doggie suicide (see "Fido Has Separation Anxiety? Try Prozac")!

It just goes to show that I see the doggie bag half-full whereas Ed sees it half-empty!

And that's all I have to say.

Friday, February 9, 2007

Rost Raises the Issue of Libel: My Apology

OK. I started this, so I should finish it.

A few days ago I accused Peter Rost (Question Authority) of sending me unsolicited bulk e-mail (spam) in violation of the CAN-SPAM law (see "Rost Spams!") . Yesterday, Peter retorted that it was not spam because he did not send the email in bulk and only to people he has had a previous business relationship with.

In that retort Peter raises the issue of libel (see "Pharmablogosphere: Spam or libel?"). When Peter threatens legal action -- even between the lines -- you have to take notice.

As you may know, Rost has other, bigger fish to fry (ie, Pfizer) and he is concerned that any accusations against him could hurt his case. So, I feel his pain.

He says: "Of course, I figure that John was just having fun and not seriously accusing me of a crime, so I'm not seriously accusing him of libel."

Peter, you know I don't think you are a criminal. If anything, I wanted to point out that I thought your e-mail was in violation, something that could happen if you didn't know the details of the CAN-SPAM law (silly me to think that you wouldn't know the details). That is, I never thought you intended to break the law.

But let's examine if it was spam at all.

Looking at the header of the e-mail that Peter sent me, it appears that it was indeed sent by Peter personally using hotmail with multiple recipients in the BBC field. People do that in regular business correspondence to keep the recipients' e-mail addresses confidential. You might recall that failure to keep e-mail addresses confidential is what got Lilly into hot water with the FTC (see "The FTC-Lilly Consent Decree: What it Means for PHARMA Vendors and Partners").

I guess what Peter did is not considered a "bulk" e-mail tactic. If that is the case and the e-mail was sent to acquaintances, it fails to meet the definition of spam and would not be covered by the US CAN-SPAM act. Also, it means that Peter used techniques to protect the privacy of recipients.

I feel, therefore, that I owe Peter an apology for calling him a spammer. Sorry, Peter.

Can I get a T-shirt now?

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Early Bird Blogger vs the Journalist

Now that we have such a crowded pharma blogosphere and professional journalist bloggers like Jim Edwards and Ed Silverman, I'm going to have to get up very early in the morning to keep up with the Jonses!

Sometimes I beat them and sometimes I don't.

Take today for example. Up at 5 AM; run out in the freezing cold and dark to get the Wall Street Journal; shake the snow off it; take it into the "library" for a quick scan; come up with some blogworthy slant during breakfast; start writing; help my son get off to school; finish by 7:00 AM -- hopefully while Jim and Ed are still on the IRT subway (do New Yorkers still distinguish subway lines that way?) heading to their offices in midtown New York or Newark as the case may be.

Today, for example, I wrote about GSK's anti-smoking campaign antics (see "GSK: Don't Go Cold Turkey!"). This piece was published at 6:45 AM. Some time later, Jim Edwards published his own take on the story (see "GSK's Anti-Smoking Debacle"). Jim doesn't include a time stamp in his posts, so it's impossible to know what time of day his piece was published -- but, believe me, it was after 6:45 AM! Take that Jim!

It's more difficult to beat Insider over at PharmaGossip. He has an edge. He's 5 or 6 hours ahead of us here on the east coast of the US. However, he can't get the news much sooner than I can because most of the good stuff is published here in the By the time it hits the streets, Insider is busy at work.

Actually, it's not as competitive as it seems. Each blogger has his or her (mostly his; see "It's Raining Men in the Pharma Blogosphere!") unique perspective. In my piece about GSK I focused on GSK pooh-poohing the cold turkey life style approach to quitting smoking, whereas Jim was more interested in how bad Nicorette gum tasted. Jim did put in a sentence about GSK's "Don't Go Cold Turkey" campaign, but he couldn't add anything new because I GOT THERE FIRST! Nya, nya, nya! Put that in your pipe an smoke it!

But here's how Jim beats me. He's sitting there all day with amazing resources and news feeds coming at him and through him and around him.

So what happens? Anna Nicole Smith dies! When did that happen? I dunno, but Jim gets the news immediately. Of course he links it up with the pharmaceutical industry in a neat post entitled "Anna Nicole Smith Is Dead; Trimspa Goes Into Crisis Mode."

Actually, I beat Jim to the Anna Nicole Smith/drug industry connection when I posted "If FDA were as Powerful as FTC" back in January. Jim followed with his own FTC vs. pharmaceutical industry post "What Drug Marketers Have to Fear from the FTC" in February. So, technically speaking, I beat Jim twice on that that topic. Nya, nya, nya!

But drat! Jim scooped me with his interview of FTC chief Deborah Platt Majoras! These people won't talk to me! I don't even get return mail from PhRMA!

This all goes to the influence that journalists will have on blogging for better or for worse.

I hope to sort this out a bit more when I interview Jim in a live podcast on Tuesday, February 20, 2007 at 1 PM eastern (that's dinner time over there across the pond, Mr. Friday!). See "Journalist Bloggers: An Interview with Jim Edwards."

Live Podcast Interview: Jim Edwards

The Pharma Blogosphere reader survey is going very nicely and I will soon have some results to share.

But if you are like me, you may want to know more about the people behind the blogs. Where did they come from? Why are they doing this? What are their qualifications? What's their favorite book? What blogs do THEY read on a regular basis? etc.

I've been lining up several Pharma Blogosphere bloggers as guests on my Pharma Marketing Talk live podcast series. The first such guest is Jim Edwards, Senior Editor, Brandweek and motivating force behind BrandweekNRX. The topic of this podcast is "Journalist Bloggers: An Interview with Jim Edwards." Read more about it here.

That's Jim over there on the left. I bet a lot people tell him he looks like Jeff Bezos. I was going to do a morph between Jim and Jeff but decided life's too short for that.

The topic I'd like to pursue with Jim is "Will blogging corrupt journalists or vice versa?" The gauntlet on this issue was laid down by Matt Holt over at The Health Care Blog (see "Journalistic Suicide or Blog Assimilation?").

I may just invite Matt to join in.

  • Air Date & Time: Tuesday, February 20, 2007, 1 PM Eastern US
  • Duration: Approx. 30-45 minutes
Go to the Pharma Marketing Talk Channel Page at the designated time to listen live via the Internet; or go there afterward to listen to audio archive.

You can call in by phone to ask questions or participate in the discussion (go here for instructions on how to do that. Please don't call in if you just want to listen.

Other guests scheduled for future podcasts include:
  • Fard Johnmar (HealthcareVox): Wednesday, February 28, 2007, 1 PM Eastern
  • Mark Senak (EyeOnFDA): Tuesday, March 6, 2007, 1 PM Eastern
  • Cary Byrd (eDrugSearch Blog): Tuesday, March 20, 2007, 1 PM Eastern
Others to be announced.

BTW, drop Insider at PharmaGossip a note and urge him to at least call in to one of these. He can talk through a gizmo to disguise his voice if he thinks that's necessary.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Pharma Watch Author Outed?

Anonymous said...

"I'm speculating that Pharmawatch's latest post attracted the attention of legal departments. Hope he realises he has supporters, and that help is available should that be the case."
I must have missed that post, but here's a synopsis posted to PharmaGossip (see "Hurrah! - Pharma Watch is back"):

"Mike comments on the blood drugs: Epogen, Procrit and Aranesp and their recent issues raised in The Lancet."

"He notes:
Their editorial is quite restrained, but reading between the lines it is quite clear that the continued unsafe use of these drugs and these unethical trials are being driven by "commercial reasons".

The authors also mention that when another renal expert tried to highlight this appalling situation in an editorial accompanying one of the earlier trials showing adverse effects, it was rejected by the New England Journal of Medicine and eventually ended up in the Wall Street Journal of all places.

Shame on the NEJM (but after the Vioxx fiasco this is hardly surprise).
Legally, how do you shut down a blog for saying something as innocuous as that?

What I think is that "Michael Lascelles" (an alias), author of Pharma Watch, has been outed! And he is being shut down by his employers.

I had a correspondence with "Mike" way back in June 2005 before the Big Bang launched the Pharma Blogosphere as we know it today. Here's what he had to say about his blog and what motivates him: (see "Pharma BloggoSphere Update"):
"Why do I do it? I'm just doing it to let of a bit of steam about what I see happening to medicine under the increasing influence of pharmaceutical companies.

"I'm a pharmacologist and work in an institution that has links with several pharma companies. Over the last decade I've seen us becoming increasingly reliant on pharma funding and our managers have become increasingly nervous about what we say and do in relation to pharma companies. Therefore my blog, under a pseudonym, is a way of saying what I can’t say in public. If I blogged under my own name I’d be in a very difficult situation, to say the least.

"Most of my material comes from what I read in the local papers or what I find when surfing the net. As part of my work I have to keep up with a lot of medical journals, and there is more and more commentary in them too. I also get a lot of feedback on the blog now, which gives me leads and stuff to follow up. The blog also acts as a way of passing on what a lot of my friends and colleagues are saying, and the unease they are feeling about the influence of pharma companies.

“Unlike the more comprehensive and well written blogs like Pharma Marketing Blog, mine makes no attempt to be fair, accurate or reasonable. I'm not a journalist and don't have time to get all my facts right or follow things up. I’m just writing my own point of view, take it or leave it.

"My blog is not 'balanced' because I don't think you can be on this. I see it as my little [unpaid, part time] voice against a huge marketing and propaganda juggernaut that can afford to pay PR companies to work full time on their lavish campaigns, and an army of heavy duty lobbyists to sweet talk the politicians."
Mike may now be in the "very difficult position" he envisioned if his real identity was known. Although I agree with Anonymous, who said "Hope he realises he has supporters, and that help is available should that be the case," I'm afraid we might never hear from Pharma Watch again!

Rost Spams!

Jeez Rost! Enough Already!

First it was the Whistle Blower this and the Whistle Blower that. Now it's T-shirts, mugs, and branded underwear! Postage stamps too! (Click on the graphic and get a larger view.)

For the love of God, stop it before we explode!

I'm talking about Peter Rost's Question Authority blog and accessories, which he is now promoting via unsolicited e-mail, aka spam!

[Please an update on this at "Rost Raises the Issue of Libel: My Apology"]


"Do you QUESTION AUTHORITY?" is how the message starts out.

Then he launches into a promotional haiku:

"When a company markets itself it is called branding.
When an individual promotes himself it is called narcissim (sic).
And when a shopper buys whatever is advertised it is called patriotism.
But when someone questions authority all hell breaks lose . . . so create some ruckus . . . click on this link and go shopping!"

Peter, I like you and that's why I'm giving you this tough love.

I don't want to be a dork, but your spam violates the US CAN SPAM law. You don't have a way for people to opt-out of future spam and the subject line does not accurately reflect the content of this commercial e-mail. You also need to include your postal address.

Listen to me. I send a lot of commercial e-mail to lists of people that have opted-in to receive it. So I'm not anti commercial e-mail. But you are sending this to me and presumably hundreds of other people who have not opted in to receive it. That's what makes it spam. But that's OK if you do it right.

I just had to get that off my chest.

P.S. If Peter keeps this up he'll soon be blasting out of the Pharma Blogosphere all together. Then what?

[Please an update on this at "Rost Raises the Issue of Libel: My Apology"]

Where to find the best Sex in the Pharma Blogosphere

It's late in the afternoon. No sense starting work now. Might as well continue to surf the Internet for some tintillating videos.

You could go to YouTube or Google directly and fart around. But at least two sites in the pharma blogosphere almost always have picked out the good stuff already.

I already mentioned PharmaGossip in a previous post (see "Pharma Gossip and Porn Too"). Check out "Future drug reps."

Dr. Rost usually serves up some pretty good cheesecake, but lately it's been a bit lame. The only thing remotely scintillating is the recent post "Want to misbehave?" which seems designed to attract traffic rather than to excite. I, of course, would NEVER do that!

This Week in the Blogosphere: Gardasil

The following is a sampling of Gardasil sightings in the pharma blogosphere.

Pharma Marketing Blog: In the post "Gardasil: To Be Mandatory or Not To Be Mandatory -- That is the Question," blogger John Mack points out that the Gardasil controversy raised several issues: promiscuity, parents' rights, drug risk vs. benefit, even disease mongering through lobbying. Mack concludes that "maybe it's not a good idea on the grounds of unknown risk to force mandatory vaccinations at this time. Merck, therefore, should back off from lobbying states to make it mandatory." What do you think -- take the Pharma Marketing Blog Poll.

BrandweekNRX: Jim Edwards obviously agrees with Pharmaceutical Executive Magazine that Gardasil is "Brand of the Year." See the post "Gardasil: Brand of the Year? Journalists like Jim could never express their opinions like this in the articles they write for their publications. We know they HAVE opinions, but without the blogs we'd have to infer what they are by reading between the lines. There isn't anything between the lines in blogs -- at least there shouldn't be. Except perhaps in corporate hack blogs. By this standard, BrandweekNRX certainly isn't a hack job! But what about Jim's articles in Brandweek? In his blog, Jim focuses his criticism on the promiscuity issue and puts himself squarely against the religious right. Now that I know his opinion of a major issue for the religious right, can I trust that his reporting on this topic in that publication will be "journalistic" (ie, balanced)? Again, I have to ask: will journalists change blogging or will blogging change journalism?

Pharmalot: This is another journalist blog. It's somewhat more difficult to read where Ed Silverman -- Phamalot's author -- stands on the issue of mandatory vaccination against HPV. I've read his post on the subject -- "The Lone Vaccine State: A Row in Texas" -- and cannot tell if he is for or agin' the Texas mandate that he writes about. Ed does cover all the issues and concludes "the overriding public policy concern here is finding the best way to promote good public health. Unfortunately, any number of state lawmakers may also benefit from industry support as they debate and promote the vaccine issue. That kind of bonus doesn't spawn confidence that the right thing is being done for the right reason. But there's no vaccine for that." From this, I conclude that Ed would vote that Merck should press on for mandatory vaccinations but not through aggressive lobbying (and politician payola).

World of DTC Marketing: In the recent post "A prime example of whats wrong with Pharma (Gardasil)," Rich Myer accuses Merck of putting "profits ahead of good medicine." He's ticked off about the price, lack of insurance coverage, and difficulty that physicians seem to having stocking the vaccine. He makes some good points. But Rich, you got to give the "We try never to forget that medicine is for the people" quote a rest! Seriously dude!

eDrug Search: I love the headline ("Mandatory Gardasil in Texas: Perry’s motives are a bit Merck-y"). I'll have to use "Merck-y" next timeI'm critical of Merck. Anyway, Cary is focused on the ties that Governor Perry has with Merck, which he picked up from News Hounds ("They eat their own - TX Governor Rick Perry under fire from just about everyone for mandatory vaccinations"): "Two of Perry’s former chiefs of staff currently work for Merck, and the mother of one of them is involved in lobbying for this … Has Perry just caved in for Merck? … His former c-o-s is being paid $250,000 by Merck to lobby for this, a Texas state legislator (Diane White Delisi) is pushing for it and working with Merck, and her daughter-in-law is the current chief of staff." Cary could have mentioned that Perry received a $6,000 political donation from Merck when he was running for office. Not that's there's anything wrong with that!

PharmaGossip: Nada about the current brouhaha over mandatory vaccination. Maybe the Insider will have an opinion later. It's always a good idea not to be too far ahead of the pack. You might just say something you regret. But Insider protects his identity very well, so I'm sure he doesn't give a crap about regrets.

Drug Injury Watch: Gardasil is not yet among the Rx products being tracked on this lawyer's(Tom Lamb) blog. Keep an eye out though for future lawsuits -- even class action lawsuits. I wonder if Merck has pit some money aside to deal with that possibility? What do you think Tom?

Drug Wonks: I was hoping that these guys would take up the issue of Gardasil and drug risk-benefit analysis. That would be right up their alley. Haven't seen it though.

That's all for now!

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

What's Up With Pharma Watch?

Here's something I've never seen before. Pharma Watch won't let me in! It says it's open by invitation only and that I'm not invited!

"It doesn't look like you have been invited to read this blog. If you think this is a mistake, you might want to contact the blog author and request an invitation."
This must be some kind of unintentional error or bug. For one thing, it's my BIRTHDAY! And who wouldn't let a birthday boy in to the party?

Could it be that the first ever Pharma Blogosphere Survey has brought too much attention to Pharma Watch, which is focused "Life inspiring ideas from the world's laziest pharmaceutical opinion leader?"

Or is it me?

Inquiring minds want to know!

Monday, February 5, 2007

Pharma Blogs, Bush and Iraq

Pharma Blogosphere Survey!Bloggers in the Pharma Blogosphere have political opinions just like you and I. And, as in the real world, the war in Iraq and president Bush dominate all other political issues.

Some of us interject our political comments in footnotes or analogies as when I said "To use a war analogy -- as is often done in industry -- sales and marketing executives tend to send in more troops when they fail to reach their goals with the current force level" (see "YouPharma(tm): A Brave New World of Marketing?"). From that, you can pretty much guess where I stand on the current US policy viz-a-viz the war in Iraq.

Even when I insert such comments, however, I try to stay focused on the topic of my blog, which is marketing, not politics.

But some pharma bloggers wear their politics on their sleeves as it were. In fact, they devote entire posts to political issues that have nothing to do with the pharmaceutical industry.

Two bloggers that come to mind who often do this are Peter Rost (Question Authority with Dr. Peter Rost) and "Insider" (PharmaGossip). See, for example, "Top villain of 2006: Bush wins over Satan..." and " Abu Ghraib Art".

Other pharma bloggers, such as Richard Goldberg and Peter Pitts (Drug Wonks) freely attack senators and other -- mostly Democratic -- politicians. See, for example, "Henry Waxman's Dangerous Political Science." Even so, Drug Wonks stay on the topic of their blog which is drug policy.

So, what's my point? Maybe it's that we are seeing some bloggers expand their horizons beyond the pharmaceutical industry. It's very difficult, for example, to categorize a blog like Dr. Rost's. In the beginning, his blog was 100% focused on the pharmaceutical industry. But he couldn't stop himself from sharing his views on other topics like sex and dead birds. He found that as he did this, his blog got more popular -- he was reaching a broader audience. So, he changed the name of his blog to Question Authority yadda yadda yadda...

I must admit that I like both these blogs precisely because you never know what you are going to find there! And I'm not just talking about politics. Rost includes many video clips from YouTube. One showed cars skidding in 1 inch of snow in New Jersey! It's all good entertainment.

In the first every Pharma Blogosphere Survey, one question asked is "What are some of the reasons why you read blogs about the pharmaceutical industry?" As expected, the vast majority of respondents say they read these blogs to keep up to date with industry news and gossip and learn more about industry business practices and regulations. But a surprising percentage of respondents also want to be entertained.

Not every blog in the Pharma Blogosphere can be entertaining. For example, I suspect that the blogs of journalists who work for large media companies (eg, Pharmalot and BrandweekNRX) and pundits that work for serious think tanks (eg, Drug Wonks) will not experiment much with entertainment. For example, you probably will never see a YouTube video let alone any anti-Iraq war rants on these blogs any time soon.

Just a few thoughts on what may motivate bloggers in the Pharma Blogosphere.

Speaking of which, I am planning to interview many of these bloggers in future Pharma Talk podcasts. So keep in touch.

Sunday, February 4, 2007

First Ever Pharma Blogosphere Survey!

First Ever Pharma Blogosphere Survey!The Pharma Blogosphere blog is currently hosting its first ever survey of reader and blogger opinions of blogs in the pharma blogosphere. I want your opinion too. So please take about 3-4 minutes answering this survey.

Everyone completing the survey may order a free copy (pdf file) of one of the following Pharma Marketing News Special Supplements:

Good deal, eh?

I am also interested in bloggers' opinions about their fellow bloggers! So, fellow bloggers, don't be shy! Take the survey and enter your blog name where indicated.

Questions include:
  • Which pharma-focused blogs do you read and how often?
  • What are the benefits to you of reading these blogs?
  • Rate the blogs you have read according to readability, credibility, and usefulness.
  • How supportive or critical of the pharmaceutical industry are the blogs that your have read?

All personally-identifiable answers will be kept confidential.

That is, I do not reveal how any identifiable person voted unless I am given permission to do so. For example, you might be interested in my personal opinions or perhaps how the Insider at PharmaGossip voted. Of course, you will get my opinion in spades as time goes on. Just take a look at my review of Drug Wonks (see "Drug Wonks Are PR Wonks"). But, if you want Insider's or another blogger's opinion, I will have to ask their permission first.

Regardless, aggregated results will be reported here when the survey is closed. In that summary, I will segment out the opinions based on the category of respondent. F0r example, I can compare how pharma people voted versus everyone else. I can also see how pharmabloggers in aggregate voted compared to everyone else.

Even at this early stage, the results look very interesting. Hope you will help and take the survey now!

Saturday, February 3, 2007

Drug Wonks Are PR Wonks

From time to time I will post reviews of blogs in the pharma blogosphere because I know you don't have time to find all the facts for yourself. Just so you know, these reviews are not unbiased or "balanced." Whaddaya think this is, wikipedia?

Let's start with one of my least favorite blogs: Drug Wonks. When I say least favorite, I mean most opposed to my worldview. Not that there's anything wrong with that!

Drug Wonks is a blog hosted by the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest (CMPI), which describes itself as "a non-partisan, non-profit educational charity." Ha! If you believe that, boy do I have a bridge to sell you!

The bloggers over there -- mostly Peter Pitts and Robert Goldberg -- would just as soon shoot my sorry ass as acknowledge the existence of Pharma Marketing Blog on their blog! That's how unbiased they are!

If there's one courtesy among us bloggers, it's acknowledging one another and linking to one another, if even the acknowledgement is a sound beating and put down, which is something I seldom do myself.

One good turn deserves another. So, you won't see me acknowledging or linking to Drug Wonks over at Pharma Marketing Blog. But I am happy to do so here (see list on the right) because inquiring minds like yours want to know everything about the pharma blogosphere, even if it is through the prism of my eyes.

Despicable Uber Alles
Peter and Robert are pretty sharp guys. In fact, they have pretty sharp tongues as well. The titles of their posts are often put downs of liberal senators (sometimes also not-so-liberal Republican senators like Grassley), academicians, or policymakers. A couple of recent titles illustrate the point:

  • Henry Waxman's Dangerous Political Science -- about "Henry Waxman waxing on and off about non-inferiority trials …" [Note that Robert doesn't even acknowledge that Waxman is a US Congressman and Committee Chairman. This is a typical put down maneuver used at Drug Wonks.]
  • Annal-yze This! -- about a "study" of DTC TV ads in the Annals of Family Medicine [Drug Wonks use of quotation marks as another form of put down]
  • The Left Wing Response to Bush Health Care Tax Cut: Medicaid Uber Alles -- ["left wing" is such an old put down, I'm surprised they even bother! and linking the left to a German phrase that conjures up Nazism is, is ... well I'm not sure how to describe it! Despicable! That's it!] I guess they aren’t doing a follow-up regarding Bush’s Medicare/Medicaid BUDGET CUT, are they?
After a while, all the put downs get tiresome. Can't we all just get along?

Conflict of Interest
Peter Pitt, the main force behind Drug Wonks, is a PR wonk as well as a drug Wonk. He is the co-founder of CMPI and Senior Vice President for Health Affairs at Manning, Selvage & Lee. I wonder how unbiased he can be as a spokesperson for CMPI while being a VP at a PR firm that services many pharmaceutical clients?

This conflict of interest is also a concern with a few other blogs in the pharma blogosphere. It's OK to have a point of view aligned with the industry, just don’t go around saying how unbiased you are!

Pitts also worked at the FDA as a PR wonk: From 2002-2004 Peter was FDA’s Associate Commissioner for External Relations, serving as the agency's "Chief Messaging Officer," where his challenge was to "clearly define FDA’s brand image and to communicate the agency’s main themes to its many constituencies."

What the hell is FDA's brand image? If you ask me, the FDA's brand image currently sucks (see "FDA Gets a 'C' from the Public"). I guess Peter didn't meet the challenge. Working a couple of years at the FDA, however, served him well.

Not Going to Debate You!
Drug Wonks claims to get over a zillion visitors every day! OK, maybe not that many, but a lot. However, there's not much interaction with the people that visit, despite the tag line "Debating Today's Drug Policies" in its logo. For example, I have not seen one comment left behind to any post! One wonders why they have a "comments" link at all if they are not going to accept comments, publish them, and respond! That would be "debating" the issues. Drug Wonks tag line should really be "Blasting Today's Drug Policies."

Another thing Drug Wonks does -- or doesn't do -- is not link out to sources of information within their posts -- unless, of course, it is an article or presentation or oped piece written by Pitts or Goldberg. They often link out to those sources.

Despite all this, I often visit Drug Wonks to see what bone they have to pick with industry "critics."

You can tell that I haven't any sense of camaraderie with Pitts and Goldberg like I have with other bloggers. These guys are part of a well-funded organization and live and work in a world high above my plane of existence. I do not sense they want to debate me or anybody else, if you know what I mean. You don’t? Well here's a clip from the movie Fargo that illustrates how I fell (piture me/you as Jerry). Enjoy!