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!

1 comment:

Morris Berg said...

Yeah . . . these guys are just astroturf frontmen. Part of an echo-chamber.

It took a couple of tries before I realized that there was not one single comment on their site.

It is a good source for seeing what the industry's take will be on any number of issues.