Wednesday, June 20, 2007

'Round the Sphere: Pharmaco Blogs and Carlat's Crusade

Recently, two pharmaceutical company blogs have officially entered the Pharma Blogosphere: Johnson & Johnson's "JNJ BTW" and Glaxo's alliConnect. Also new to the Pharma Blogosphere is The Carlat Pschiatry Blog, which we will look at first.

The Carlat Pschiatry Blog
This blog was started by Daniel Carlat, M.D., Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Tufts University School of Medicine and Editor-in-Chief of The Carlat Psychiatry Report. Dr. Carlat gained some notoriety by writing a NY Times OpEd piece entitled "Diagnosis: Conflict of Interest" in which he characterized pharma-sponsored Continuing Medical education (CME) as "a new twist on that well-known instrument of corruption, money laundering" (for more on that, see "Welcome to the CME Laundomat!").

Carlat says he decided to start his blog "in order to follow up on some buzz generated by [his op-ed piece] in which [he] recommended that industry-sponsored CME activities no longer receive accreditation from the ACCME." He asks readers to join his crusade:

"If you have seen any examples of obvious commercial bias in educational activities, let me know. Together, we can sniff out the worst offenders, and report them to the ACCME, to the Senate Finance Committee, which released this report, and to whoever else has an interest in improving the ethics of medicine in America."
Dr. Carlat will be a guest on an upcoming Pharma Marketing Talk podcast where I will ask him if he's had any success in his crusade to date. Everyone is welcome to listen in on July 10, 2006 (more information here).

JNJ BTW is a corporate communications blog that was started up by our friend Marc Monseau, director of media relations at J&J. Recall that Marc reached out to several bloggers and invited several to dinner at a restaurant in NYC (see "Should Bloggers Dine at Pharma's Table?").

Why "BTW"? I don't know. Marc doesn't say.
BTW, results from a readers survey shed some light on pharma's penchant for wining and dining physicians as well as us bloggers. See charts below.
According to Marc's welcome message:
Everyone else is talking about our company, so why can’t we? There are more than 120,000 people who work for Johnson & Johnson and its operating companies. I’m one of them, and through JNJ BTW, I will try to find a voice that often gets lost in formal communications.

This is a big step for us as a company. Anyone working for a large corporation will appreciate that there are many internal limitations on what we say and how we say it.

I’ve been reading blogs for only a few months now, but already it’s clear to me how important it is not just to watch, but to join in productively. Doing that will take some unlearning of old habits and traditional approaches to communicating — and I will have to find my own voice.

On JNJ BTW, there will be talk about Johnson & Johnson — what we are doing, how we are doing it and why. There will be comment on the news about our company and the industry — occasionally correcting any mistakes (not that that ever happens!) or simply providing more context. I hope and expect that some of my colleagues will eventually join me on this blog.

We may not always be able to talk about product-specific issues, news from our operating companies or issues that fall under regulatory or legal constraints. But we’re going to do what we can to talk openly, directly and to the best of our knowledge. I’m sure we will learn more as we blog, so keep in mind that nothing on JNJ BTW is set in stone.
Although Marc has made relatively few posts so far, already he may have gotten in a bit over his head if the following comment is an indication:
marcus aurelius Says:
June 19th, 2007 at 7:45 pm

Just to clarify:

Other than the fact that both the Johnson & Johnson Co. and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) were both founded by Robert Wood Johnson, and current RWJF board members are former board members and/or executives of the Johnson & Johnson Company, and RWJF is the single largest private shareholder ($5.4 billion 2004) of J & J stock…..there is no connection.

Does that sound about right?
The comment did not address any remarks that Marc made on the blog. The author merely took Marc up on his willingness to fully disclose conflicts of interest and obviously has a bone to pick with J&J over its control of the RWJF.

Comments Policy
Here's a synopsis of JNJ BTW's policy on comments:
All comments will be reviewed before posting. Since this blog is about Johnson & Johnson, comments that don't directly relate to the Company or to topics covered on this blog won't be posted [Marc, you shouldn't have posted that comment by marcus aurelius!]. That said, some comments may be forwarded to other people within the Johnson & Johnson Family of Companies for follow-up as appropriate.

We generally won’t post comments about products that are sold by the Johnson & Johnson operating companies.

...comments that pertain to ongoing legal matters or regulatory issues are unlikely to be posted.
alliConnect is GlaxoSmithKline's official corporate blog for alli. According to the about statement, "It's a place for you to have a conversation with us about weight loss issues." It does warn visitors, however, that there are a few rules: "Because we work for a drug company we do have to abide by a few rules."

OK, I'll bite. Let's look at the rules. The "Legal Stuff" started out short and to the point:
"This blog is written by employees of GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare who are authorized to speak on behalf of the company.

Our posts and answers to your comments reflect our company's point of view. They are based on the latest in science and what we've learned from talking to consumers.

When we offer personal points of views, or talk about our experience with alli, we'll make sure that's clear."
Interestingly, I noticed a few comments made by other members of the Pharma Blogosphere, such as Jack Friday of PharmaGossip, who had this to say:
Hey guys,

Welcome to the blogosphere.

My guess, Steve, is that you are excited about the early sales peak but are now scared that you may have underplayed the "treatment effects" - hence all the "oops" references on the blog as you try and mentally compensate.

Add to this the $150 million spend and...... well anyone would have an oops moment or two!

The blog idea is a good one.

Unfortunately, there was no response from "The Alli first team."

1 comment:

Truthman30 said...

check out the unofficial alli blog...