Wednesday, May 30, 2007

'Round the Sphere: Cupcake Capers Continue, PharmaFraud Blog?

The AstraZeneca Cupcake Caper has escaped the gravity of the Pharma BlogosphereTM and entered the realm of mainstream blogging.

These young ladies -- Nichelle, alizinha, and Rachel -- are
self-proclaimed cupcake fans and authors of the All Cupcakes, All the Time Blog (there had to be at least one blog dedicated to cupcakes!). The trio have picked up on the stories published recently in our part of the blog universe (see "Cupcakes and cancer controversy").

The cupcake blog's mission is to share with the world everything you wanted to know about cupcakes (I'm sure, one day, they will regret their homage to this tasty treat). That also seems like the mission of a few blogs in the Pharma Blogosphere.

The latest brouhaha was initiated by Ed Silverman at Pharmalot. He questioned how AZ expensed the pink cupcakes their reps allegedly handed out to patients in doctors' offices (see "Taxing Question: How Did AstraZeneca Account For Pink Cupcakes Given To Patients?").

I decided to post a reply to Ed's question in an attempt to show that it is both possible to expense such items and that it may violate AZ policy but does not necessarily violate HIPAA privacy regulations (see "On Cupcakes and HIPAA").

The pace of commentary then picked up when Ed and Peter Rost of Question Authority apparently simultaneously received and published a copy of an AZ internal memo from the AZ Group of Seven (see "Astrazeneca's Cupgate: Don't Feed the Patients" and "AstraZeneca FORBIDS PINK CUPCAKES to patients!"); the memo, dated May 1, specifically forbade AZ reps from feeding cupcakes to patients.

As a proponent of the Free Lunch for Patients Program, I was outraged and railed against this AZ policy in my own post to Pharma Marketing Blog (see "AZ: No Cupcakes for You!"):

I cannot see how it is perfectly OK for reps to feed pizza to docs, but not give cupcakes to patients!

It’s time that we patients stood up and demanded our share of the pharma giveaway program!

Citing HIPAA as an excuse for not giving patients cupcakes is a red herring. That law was never intended to leave patients in the cold while docs feasted on gourmet deli sandwiches!

It’s all because of pharma bloggers — Ed Silverman, Peter Rost, Jack Friday — that this memo was written!

Does anyone think that a cupcake could influence me to ask my doctor for a course of Arimidex? Certainly not!
On to more serious matters...

Peter Rost may soon share the whistleblower limelight with another blog entry to the Pharma Blogosphere: PharmaFraud. This new orb is still a random collection of gaseous matter and claims:
"When this site goes live the Pharma Industry will long for the days when Peter Rost was their biggest worry."
I don't know if the blog can fulfill this promise. To beat Rost at the pharma whistleblower game, you have to have some pretty shocking stories to tell!

No fear, Question Authority and PharmaFraud seem intent on collaboration rather than competition. We'll see.

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