Friday, November 30, 2007

Lilly's Taurel Warns Off "Would-be Pundits"

Rich Myer over at World of DTC Marketing -- which has had a recent facelift (very nice) -- emailed me a link to an OpEd piece in the WSJ written by Sidney Taurel, CEO of Eli Lilly and Company (saint Taurel seen on left). The piece was entitled "The Media on Drugs" -- a title I find unfortunate in the context of discussing the "ethical" drug industry.

Mr. Taurel chided the media for perpetrating unfounded rumors, innuendos and unsubstantiated facts about Lilly's motives for halting two clinical trials for the drug prasugrel. As Myer says "But Mr. Taurel takes it a step further and feels that the media should try and understand the data so that they can report the whole story."

Taurel also took a shot at "would-be pundits" (ie, bloggers) and said "If you have not had firsthand exposure to the scientific results or specialized knowledge under discussion, then qualify your comments if you must make them at all."

BTW, have you heard this one?

Why don't drug company CEOs write blogs?

They do. It's called the Wall Street Journal OpEd page!
While we poor "pundits" must roll our own presses on the Internet, Taurel merely drops a note to WSJ and instantly reaches millions of readers! Now that's what I call Media on Drugs!

In any case, I suspect that Taurel was merely offering an excuse for his own failings to manage the media. This was pointed out by a commenter on the CNBC site and quoted by Myer:
"I think Taurel is shooting the messenger. Lilly had to know that the original story about the halted clinical trials was going to break. And, if so, it had a golden opportunity to try to get out in front of it and do some spin control. For example, offer up high-level executives to reporters immediately. Put out a more detailed statement than the one it released. The company might argue that its hands were tied because of the pending embargo on the larger clinical trial results which were soon due to be presented at the American Heart Association meeting and published in 'The New England Journal of Medicine.' But I suspect that given the extraordinary circumstances--the news of the two smaller studies being halted and the steep $6 billion decline in LLY's market value because of it--that the company might have been able to convince AHA and/or NEJM to loosen up a little and let its officials discuss at least some of the results in an open forum, pre-embargo."

How About this for an Innuendo?
Not only that, but I find the timing of the halting of the two trials peculiar. It was done a mere 10 days prior to the embargo date. Couldn't Lilly have waited until AFTER the embargo was lifted and avoided this whole brouhaha? After all, Taurel claimed that Lilly "received no reports of safety concerns from them." Or did they? Let the rumors continue! Long live the pundits!

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