Tuesday, May 22, 2007

'Round the Sphere: Moore (sic) Movies, Avandia Avalanche

Several new Moore SiCKO sightings, news, and video clips have been posted by bloggers in the Pharma BlogosphereTM.

PharmaGossip posted several links to reviews in the press as well as a video clip (trailer) from the movie (see "SiCKO - what the papers say").

Most reviews are pretty positive. I haven't seen one inch devoted to what the movie says about the pharmaceutical industry. Moore seems mostly concerned with hospitals and insurance companies as the bad guys.

I am still trying to get a screening for us pharma bloggers (see "Mr. Moore Don't Ignore: Please Invite Me to a Screening of Your Movie") and have made some progress on that front that I will be able to talk about later.

Drug Wonks, those "Tricky Wonkers" who attempted a "Wonky PR Trick" pre-debut, has been quiet apres le debut -- I guess all the positive media reviews (even from conservative FOX!) is too much for these PR wonks to spin in the opposite direction!

For a treasure trove of SiCKO blog links (mostly outside our sphere of influence), take a look at this Google Blog Search page.

INNERSTATE: Is it DTC Advertising?
SiCKO wasn't the only movie on pharma bloggers's minds this week. Centocor's 58-minute disease awareness documentary INNERSTATE was also a hot topic in the Sphere.

After finally seeing the movie, Pharm Aid was enthusiastic about it:

"Johnson & Johnson has a long history these kind of broader issues-based campaigns. Since the J&J product, Remicade, is never mentioned in the film and no treatment option is pushed (contrary to Avorn’s comments that this is a “commercial”), it’s not clear if J&J is thinking of InnerState as an issues campaign or if this is more traditional product push."
Unfortunately, as I pointed out on Pharma Marketing Blog and as Ed Silverman pointed out on Pharmalot, INNERSTATE may actually be a commercial. True, the movie itself never mentions Remicade (Centocor's product), but, according to evidence submitted to me by SEIU Local 32BJ, Remicade product information -- a medication guide -- was distributed at a showing of the movie in the King of Prussia Mall in PA in April. I also received the INNERSTATE DVD in the mail containing this product information along with the movie. IMHO, this makes the entire campaign a DTC promotion rather than an unbranded disease awareness campaign, which is how it has been generally described in the press and on other blogs.

Of course, SEIU Local 32BJ has a bone to pick with J&J and has sent letters to FDA and PhRMA claiming that Centocor is in violation of FDA regulations and PhRMA DTC guidelines. However, as I explained to the union's representative, I do not believe Centocor is in violation because it included all the necessary fair balance information.

Anyway, you can find all sides of the story here, including a lengthy statement from Michael Parks, Centocor's Director of Public Relations, and Executive Producer of INNERSTATE. This level of engagement with bloggers is unprecedented and earns Centocor kudos from me.

Avandia Avalanche
As expected, many pharma bloggers have precipitated an avalanche of posts about Avandia, which is being characterized in the press and on blogs as the Vioxx II.

While I love to see a big pharmaceutical company squirm -- especially a British pharma company -- as much as the next American guy, I offered GSK some advice on how to handle the situation. See "Advice to GSK on Handling the Avandia Avalanche: Don't Do What Merck Did".

Steve Woodruff from Impactiviti Blog added his own piece of advice in a comment to my post:
Make a Public Pledge

Something along these lines: "According to the information we have right now, we are convinced that Avandia is a safe and effective treatment. However if, in collaboration with the FDA and clinical researchers, we come to the conclusion in the future that this (or any) drug that we offer has risks that outweigh its benefits, we will immediately withdraw it from the market."

- Take a strong stand based on current information
- Show openness to the implications of new (well-founded) information
- Follow through on the pledge no matter what the cost

This kind of no-nonsense stance, joined to responsible disclosure and clear communication to the marketplace, will go a long way toward countering the negative view of "Big Pharma" - particularly when there are Vioxx-type side effect problems...
Be sure to visit Impactiviti Blog for more insights on GSK.

Meanwhile, Drug Wonks has an interesting perspective on why the Avandia story is breaking now. See "Sneak Attack on PDUFA," which should be stored under "it ain't over until the fat (diabetic) lady sings."

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