Monday, April 30, 2007

Pharma Giles Goes Super Nova: One Final Violation of Rule #4

Pharma Giles has signed off the blogosphere and in the process spews forth Cafe Pharma potty-speak remarks against me and this blog.

What have I done to deserve being called a "turd?"

Giles hates me because I wrote a post about Jack Friday, playfully trying to profile him. Giles thought I wasn't respecting Jack's right to remain anonymous. As if I had access to any more information than any one else can easily find on PharmaGossip!

It always amazes me how those who suggest ethics and good manners are the first to violate their own moral values.

Notes from the Healthcare Blogging Summit: Marketing Panel

This panel's full title is "Using New Media to Market (or Motivate?) Behavioral Change -- Practical Lessons from High-Profile Cases." Participants include:

  • Fabio Gratton, Ignite Health
  • Adam Pellegrini, American Cancer Society
  • Debbie Donovan, Conceptus
  • Moderator: Nedra Weinreich, Weinreich Communications
Nedra noted that the concept of "social marketing" predates it's use to describe marketing via social media. Her company uses social marketing to persuade individuals to take action for health or social change by addressing the values, needs and desires that motivate them. She works through non-profit organizations.

Fabio discussed how his company has leveraged blogs. He has built a series of blog networks in specific disease states. is a pharmaceutical company sponsored patient video blog that Fabio created. Fabio has some interesting ideas and has done some creative things online. I hope to interview him soon in an upcoming Pharma Marketing Talk podcast. Stay tuned for that!

Fabio learned that self-esteem and ego were powerful drivers that motivate bloggers, more so than accumulating points that can be redeemed for music downloads.

Debbie Donovan blogs in the medical device space -- "Diary of a Decision: The Essure Procedure." Her company created a persona, "Judy", so that visitors can "Ask Judy" questions. This simple device dramatically increased the number of questions submitted daily. Patient stories on her site are there to help women see what other woman who have undergone the procedure are saying and feeling.

Adam Pellegrini talked about ACS's "Relay for Life" website, which hosts 8,000 bloggers. "Your really don't know what your users want, unless you know who your users are," said Adam. Metrics are important. Go ask Jim Edwards -- BrandweekNRX continues to poll its users. ACS will never replace its editorial content, which is well-trusted, with user-generated content. But it is working on integrating the two sources of content.

Notes from the Healthcare Blogging Summit: Open Healthcare Panel

It's 10:30 AM and only 25 people are in the room -- approximately half of them are presenters. It seems that blogging is an East Coast phenom!

The first panel in the morning addressed open healthcare issues for corporations. The panel participants included:

  • Matthew Holt, The Healthcare Blog
  • Nicholas Jacobs, Windber Medical Center and Research Institute
  • Elisa Cooper, Whistleblower, formerly with Kaiser Permanente (see "Kaiser Permanente sues blogger over patient information")
  • Bob Coffield, Flaherty, Sensbaugh & Bonasso
  • Moderator: Dmitriry Kruglyak, TrustedMD
I guess this is about how corporations cab manage and minimize crises created by blogs, like Question Authority vs. Astrazeneca.

Bob of the Health Care Law Blog summarized some of the legal issues.

Lawyers love the brave new world of blogging and open healthcare, said Bob.

Blogger Law 101
What bloggers should be aware of. Includes copyright and use of trademarks; asserting and defending defamation (libel/slander); can you be held liable for comments published on your blog? liability for publishing private facts with no legitimate public purpose (especially important in healthcare); employees rights to blog (public employees have more rights); "whistle-blogging (protecting employees who reveal illegal acts by employers); blogging the violates company policy (blogging policies are becoming more prevalent).

Corporate approach to blogging: should be treated similar to email; protect business secrets, "be nice."

Role Playing Exercise
A blogger breaks news that is potentially damaging to a hospital -- Lisa will play that role. How would a hospital CEO respond, general counsel. Dmitriry is a reporter.

How does the CEO feel about it? because of regulation, healthcare companies try to "stay under the radar" rather than deal with issues with candor and full disclosure (ie, transparency).

Note: Several panel members suggested scenarios involving Matthew Holt as in "suppose Matthew is a disgruntled employee and decides to..." or "suppose Matthew is ripping off your copyright material ..."

Elisa suggested that someone may become an "aggressive" blogger because they don't have access to lawyers and other resources that the corporation has at its disposal. But sometimes, bloggers (eg, Peter Rost) has access to both blogs and lawyers. It's an issue that may involve the "digital divide" that Jay Bernhardt discussed. As more disenfranchised people gain access to blogging, there may be a lot more bloggers that are aggressive towards the corporate healthcare industry, especially patients who were "wronged" or employees that see their organizations engaged in questionable, if not illegal, practices.

Journalism vs. Blogging
"From a reporter's perspective," said Dmitriry, "blogs are a great source for stories." He used Lisa' blog attacks against Kaiser Permanente as an example. He suggested the truism: Don't do anything that would not want to see reported in the Wall Street Journal. I would change that these days to: don't do anything you would like to see in the blogosphere! Astrazeneca's Zubillaga Affair is an excellent example. It was Peter Rost who "broke" the story, not the WSJ. And Astrazeneca had to react to his revelations, not a story in the WSJ.

The press has "buckets of ink," said Jacobs, "we don't go after them or write letters to the Editor." But bloggers don't need no stinkin' ink! They have "buckets of bits" and access to Youtube as well!

Bob suggested that the less moderation of comments you do, the less liable you are, legally even though the law has recently changed to give the same rights to bloggers as ISPs with regard to comments. Dmitriry suggests that you moderate comments, you should have a policy that explains how comments are moderated in every case.

My panel is next (I will talk about the Pharma Blogosphere Survey). So, I won't be able to blog about that in real time.

Notes from the Healthcare Blogging Summit: Jay Bernhardt, CDC

The Summit got off to a late start due to a scheduling mix up and at 9 AM, attendance was sparse! Hopefully, it will pick up as the day goes on.

I am writing this and posting as the day goes on...

Jay Berhardt, MD, Centers for Disease Control, gave a keynote presentation. spoke on Social Networks and New Media for Health in the 21st Century. Jay is the Director of the CDC's National Center for Health Marketing. Jay is also a blogger (see Director's Blog).

DISCLAIMER: The following is a synopsis of jay's personal views, not CDC policy.

The government is not tracking the digital divide as well as it once did. This is a key concern when we talk about new media and help.

US is 15th out of 30 developed countries in terms of broadband access -- about 20% of Americans subscribe to broadband, whereas countries in Europe are at about 30% adoption. This also has implications for health-related social policy adoption.

Is social media affecting health? Yes, says Bernhardt, but not easily quantified today. Especially if measured by better health outcomes -- no evidence that we are healthier today because of the Internet.

How can social media revolutionize health (not healthcare, but health)?

Social media cannot overcome a problem with your genes. What about using SM to change our environment? Yes, there is a lot of activity in this sphere -- social justice, equity of access, and opportunities, etc.

Social Media and Decision Support -- social media can increase the impact of information to inform healthy decisions.

Health is a social construct -- e.g., "people like me" are most trusted according to the Edelman Trust Baromter. No demographically the same, but have the same opinions, etc.

To succeed, social media must be BIG on the 3 P's and 3 E's: Personalized, Participatory, Presentations (ubiquitous content through multiple channels), Engaging, Entertaining, Emotional. Need to engage in these E's if you want to cut through the clutter.

Product placement in RSS Feeds is coming! "It's there now," shouted out several people in the audience.

Jay cited a couple of examples: fluwiki, organizedwisdon

What's CDC doing? Jay defines marketing as delivery of value to consumers. Goal is to have consumers actively use information in such a way to improve health.

His marketing group uses podcasts, RSS, E-Cards, Webinars and blogs, graphical bugs, E-games (toe in the water), widget (very big into this). A good model is the field of financial services, which is far ahead to the health industry in adopting these technologies.

What About Future?
Health-related social media will continue to grow.

Information credibility is harder to judge these days. Trusted experts will have a resurgence. Sources like CDC and clinicians that "I know."

CAUTION: the health information divide is continuing to grow as well. Mobile media may help bridge the gap. 2.5 billion people live within mobile access spots, even though they may not own a mobile device. People have a relationship with their mobile devices.

Survey Finds Blogs Critical of Drug Industry Are Most Credible

I will be in Las Vegas this Monday and Tuesday where I am speaking at the Healthcare Blogging Summit. I will be participating on the panel, "Blog Search, Distribution, Measurement & Reputation Management", along with Fard Johnmar (HealthcareVOX blog), Tom Eng, Healia (medical blog search), and Constantin Basturea, Converseon (a Web 2.0 communications agency).

At this meeting, I will present the details of the Pharma Blogosphere Reader Survey. Below is the press release, which highlights some of the findings from that survey, which I hope stimulates some discussion at the meeting.

First Ever Pharma Blogosphere™ Reader Survey Reveals That Blogs Critical of the Pharmaceutical Industry are Viewed More Credible than Blogs Supportive of the Industry

Results of the First Ever Reader Survey of the Pharma Blogosphere™ Presented at the Healthcare Blogging Summit in Las Vegas

Survey sheds light on the credibility and bias of over 20 blogs devoted to various aspects of the pharmaceutical industry

Las Vegas, NV – April 30, 2007 – A new survey of pharma blog readers presented today at the Healthcare Blogging Summit by VirSci Corporation, publisher of Pharma Marketing News newsletter, reveals that four of the TOP FIVE credible pharmaceutical-related blogs are "industry critics," as rated by industry and non-industry readers alike.

According to industry readers, the TOP FIVE credible blogs, in rank order, are In the Pipeline, Pharmalot, Pharma Marketing Blog, BrandweekNRX, and PharmaGossip. In the Pipeline blog is the only "industry supporter" in the group (see TABLE, below).

Non-industry readers also considered critical blogs more credible, although the list of blogs in this group is somewhat different (see TABLE, below).

Pharma Rag, PharmaGossip, Question Authority, and Pharma Giles were considered the most critical of the industry by all 143 survey respondents, whereas On Pharma, In the Pipeline, Drug Wonks, and Eye On FDA were considered most supportive.

Aside from bias for or against the industry and credibility, respondents rated blogs according to readability (layout, ease of reading and finding information) and usefulness (for keeping readers aware of the issues).

"Top Honors" overall went to In the Pipeline, Pharmalot, BrandweekNRX, PharmaGossip, and Pharma Marketing Blog.

Thirty percent (30%) of respondents read 2 to 9 pharmaceutical-related blogs more than once a week. Eighty-six percent (86%) read pharma blogs to keep up to date with industry news and gossip; 69% to learn more about industry business practices, regulations, etc.; and 22% to "snoop" in order to see what bloggers may be saying about their companies or blogs.

The most frequently read blogs are Pharma Marketing Blog, PharmaGossip, Pharmalot, Question Authority (Dr. Peter Rost), In the Pipeline, and Eye On FDA.
"Both the drug industry and its supporters seem to have fallen into the same credibility gap," said John Mack, publisher of Pharma Marketing News and author of Pharma Marketing Blog and Pharma Blogosphere™ blog. "The results of this survey are a wake-up call to blogs that support the industry. They must do a better job convincing readers—most of whom are likely skeptical of the industry to begin with—that the information in their blogs is credible."
VirSci Corporation's survey was featured in the April issue of Pharma Marketing News. A reprint of the article "How Readable, Credible & Useful are Pharma Blogs? can be found on the Pharma Marketing Network website and purchased for $9.95. It’s free to subscribers of the newsletter (subscribe here).

TABLE: TOP FIVE credible blogs according to industry respondents (left 2 columns) vs. non-industry respondents (right 2 columns), based on the percentage of responses in the "Top 2 boxes" (Superior/Excellent). N (industry)=43 (excluding respondents who “never” or “rarely” read the blog); n>5 (includes only blogs having more than 5 responses); N (non-industry)=100 (not Never/Rarely); n>10. Excludes Pharma Watch blog because it is now closed to the public. *In the Pipeline is the only “industry supportive” blog in this group, as judged by respondents.
About the Survey
One hundred forty three (143) respondents to the survey ranked 22 pharmaceutical-related blogs according to readability (layout, ease of reading and finding information), usefulness (for keeping readers aware of the issues), and credibility (accuracy of information). The survey was hosted online between February 3, 2007 and February 28, 2007. VirSci Corporation acknowledges with appreciation Chris Pounds at Myriad Pharmaceuticals for help with survey design and analysis.

About VirSci Corporation
VirSci Corporation ( publishes Pharma Marketing News and owns Pharma Marketing Network, which brings together pharmaceutical marketing professionals from manufacturers, communications companies, and marketing service providers for wide ranging discussions and education on a multitude of current topics. Pharma Marketing Network & Pharma Marketing News provide executive-level content coupled with permission-based e-marketing opportunities.

Media Contact
John Mack, VirSci Corporation
Phone: 215-504-4164
Cell: 215-431-0859

# # #

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Cornelius Named as Bristol CEO

This just in from the Wall Street Journal: Bristol-Myers named interim leader Cornelius as its permanent CEO and reported its first-quarter net slipped 3.4%. It also announced a drug pact with Pfizer.

Regarding the propsects for a turnaround at BMS, Cornelius grunted: "So easy, an ape can do it!"

Free Reprints: Pharma Blogosphere Survey Results, YouPharma

I just published the April 2007 issue of Pharma Marketing News, which includes two article that I know will be of interest to Pharma BlogosphereTM members and readers of this blog in general.

To receive free reprints (pdf files) of these articles by email, please fill out the online Reprint Request Form. This offer is avaiable ONLY through midnight (Eastern US) Saturday, April 28, 2007.

If you are one of my pharma blogger compadres who doesn't have time for no stinkin' forms and wants the survey results as soon as possible, you may send me an email (you know it!).

Note: I appreciate a discussion of the survey results and realize that I cannot make everyone happy. If you are going to complain and bitch about it on your blogs, you might wait until you can discuss it with me. Keep in mind that I worked with a market research specialist who set up the conditions for filtering the results and who prepared most of the charts. I have learned a lot by doing this and know there are limitations. Hopefully, with constructive criticism I can improve it for the next go round.

The articles are:

How Readable, Credible & Useful are Pharma Blogs?

This article presents the complete results from the first ever survey of The Pharma Blogosphere in which blog readers evaluate 22 different pharma-related blogs on the basis of readability, credibility, usefulness, and bias.

Topics and issues covered include:

  • Frequency of Reading
  • Is It a Legitimate Issue?
  • Bias: Industry Critics vs Industry Supporters
  • Readability, Credibility, and Usefulness
  • The TOP FIVE Overall Honors
  • Industry vs. Non-Industry Readers
  • Blogs and Readers of a Feather Flock Together

Charts and Tables include:

  • FIGURE 1: Frequency of Reading
  • FIGURE 2: "Industry Critics"
  • FIGURE 3: "Industry Supporters"
  • FIGURE 4: Overall Honors, ranked by credibility
  • TABLE 1A: TOP FIVE Readable blogs (overall)
  • TABLE 1B: TOP FIVE Credible blogs (overall)
  • TABLE 1C: TOP FIVE Useful blogs (overall)
  • TABLE 2A: TOP FIVE Readable blogs, industry respondents vs. non-industry respondents
  • TABLE 2B: TOP FIVE Credible blogs, industry respondents vs. non-industry respondents
  • TABLE 2A: TOP FIVE Useful blogs, industry respondents vs. non-industry respondents

YouPharma: New Rules for Pharma Marketing and Social Media

The return on investments for traditional pharma marketing channels -- TV, drug reps, print -- is declining. A new approach to the way forward in pharma marketing is needed. Is it time for the pharmaceutical industry to take the advice of some of its critics and use the new Web 2.0 tools available to it and extricate itself from its moribund situation of declining ROI? Highlights from a Pharma Roundtable discussion and comments from several bloggers in the Pharma Blogosphere.

Topics and issues covered include:

  • DTC Spending Up, ROI Down
  • Fard Johnmar's Web 2.0 Tools Sampling
  • Some Pharma Feet Are Getting Wet
  • Employee Blogs
  • Code of Conduct
  • YouPharma: It's Not About Us, It's About Them
  • Put Some Skin in the Game\
  • Beating the Pros

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

'Round the Sphere: Wonky Kryptonite, Ethics, and Videotape

You know, of course, it is impossible to review al the important stuff going on in the expanding Pharma BlogosphereTM. The best I can do is offer my own eclectic glimpse into trends, fun stuff, and major rants.

Thanks to Steve Woodruff of impactiviti, therefore, for putting together PharmaCentral (see "Flaky" PharmaCentral Launched!), a portal "designed to give you fingertip access to a number of targeted blogs, so that you can more easily and quickly find updated commentary on a variety of topics." Basically, Steve has organized public feeds from blogs into categories based on the focus of the blog. A number of "flakes" or windows into the feed content of blogs appear on a single page.

My suggestion: Use Pharma Blogosphere and PharmaCentral in concert -- the former gives you insight and commentary plus reviews of the blogs in the space (not to mention ratings by readers -- more on that later), the latter is an unedited glimpse into recent posts from blogs.

Steve's blog (impactiviti) is about pharma sales training, in case you are interested.

ASIDE TO STEVE: What ever happened to the discussion of sales training going too far (see Steve's post "How Far is Too Far?"). This question was prompted by the Zubillaga Affair (or Zube Affair, or ZubeGate; your choice) and sales training PPT, which seems to prompt sales reps to make off-label head to head comparisons of 2 drugs on sales calls. Steve asks: "The defense was made that this was a 'for information only' training piece, and the information was not to be used for detailing. Well, maybe. Here’s the question I’d like to have your comments on - where does a company draw the line between giving out information like this to sales reps, even if there is a “not for detailing” disclaimer? Where does this stand with the compliance/ethical practices of your company? How far is too far?"

Can we expect any answers to these questions any time soon? Inquiring minds want to know.
Drug Wonks Have Sense of Humor -- Who Knew?
Finally, Drug Wonks (aka "PR Wonks," Whoops! Did I just violate Rulemaker Giles' Rule #4?) post a light, humorous piece! Here it is in its entirety:
Real Kryptonite Found: FDA Puts Black Box Warning on Related Products

The FDA announced today that all supplements and products derived from kryptonite would have a black box warning. Dr. David Graham had pressured the agency after noting that the presence of kryptonite would pose a serious and life threatening danger to Superman, Supergirl and other survivors of the planet Krypton. Graham had been pushing Congress to expand it's drug safety program to move beyond "merely planetary surveillance activities" and into galactic exploration of pharmacovigilance matters. The FDA said in a press release " this pilot project is part of our effort to develop a global and indeed galactic risk management program." The agency had planned to establish this program in partnership with Luthor Industries and the Justice League of America but was attacked by members of Congress for being too "cozy" with special interests.
I guess everyone has heard of the discovery of Kryptonite on planet Earth reported recently in the press? If not, this tongue-in-cheek piece may cause you to scratch your head.

More Ethics Anyone?
There's a new kid on the block -- or, should I say, new orb in the Outer Sphere: Hooked blog, which was launched back in February "accompany the recent publication of [the author's, Harold Brody] book, Hooked: Ethics, the Medical Profession, and the Pharmaceutical Industry. Hat tip to Jack Friday at PharmaGossip, who continues to discover new planets!

I wonder what Paul Marinelli, the author of the blog Pharma Ethics, My Foot! thinks of this new blog? Sounds like they should duke it out. BTW, where are you Paul? We haven't seen a new post to your blog since...February! Hmmmm...coincidence! Could Harold Brody and Paul Marinelli be alter egos of the same person! C'mon Paul! Write something scathing please (Rule #4 be damned!).

I'm a little conflicted about adding Hooked to the list of Pharma Blogosphere members. After all, Hooked is obviously geared to promote a single product: the author's book, which BTW I will definitely BUY and READ!

Brody, however, is engaged in an interesting project whereby a blog is designed to update the contents of a book and the author offers interaction with his readers:
"My major goal with this blog is to allow updates on the book's contents. The topic--the relationship between medicine and the pharmaceutical industry--is hot right now, and practically every day, new developments occur and new information is published. I wanted to have a platform to inform interested readers of those developments that seem to me especially pertinent or important, and that might modify some statement or fact given in the book."
But why the book? Why not just the blog? Will the blog out live the book, which may never make it it to a second printing? Too many questions for me to answer this early in the AM.

The AZ Videotape
Peter Rost is at AZ again! The latest brouhaha is the "Secret AstraZeneca Audio Tapes" (see here and here and practically everywhere in the Pharma Blogosphere; hope I implemented Rule #1 adequately).

So far, we've seen the lies and the videotape. Where's the sex Peter?

OK, so it's an AUDIOTAPE, not a Videotape! Sue me! The real question is where's the sex?

Frankly, I haven't been keeping up with all these revelations and have not listened to any of the tracks that Peter has uploaded. I notice, however, that he uses a third-pary storage site called Box where he deposits all his media file (see, for example, Track 7). You get 1 GB of storage free! If Peter keeps up this pace of revelations, he will soon have to upgrade!

Hey, Judge Mack has just had a tattoo done and wants to show you! Click here to see it.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Rules vs. Guidelines: You be the Judge!

What started out as a lone post on On Pharma, destined to be assigned to the outer dust clouds of the Pharma BlogosphereTM, is now reverberating within the Inner Planets. I'm talking of course, about a Bloggers "Code of Conduct."

You'll recall that I was critical of the notion of civility on Cafe Pharma, because it is an oxymoron (see "Civility on CafePharma: Oxymoronic Wishhful Thinking"). Of course, I caught a boatload of criticism for that tongue-in-cheek satiric post, including scolding by Peter Rost, the Godfather of the Pharma Blogosphere!

Speaking of characterizing and otherwise dissing bloggers, let me point the finger at Pharma Giles who likens me to Drudge Dredd (see "The Judge Gets Bitch-Slapped..."), which was funny the first time, but a little old now.

According to Wikipedia: the term "bitch slap" is derived from American slang. In the original sense, a "bitch slap" is a powerful, full-swing slap in the face with the front of the hand, evoking the way an angry pimp might slap a defiant prostitute (not to be confused with a "pimp slap" which uses the back of the hand).

In the Pharma Giles post, if you bother to scroll on down, you will find Pharma Giles' "Rules" for bloggers. Some of these "Rules" make sense, some do not.

Before I get to the "Rules," let me say that we need GUIDELINES, not rules. And there's never going to be any enforcement. The best we can hope for is voluntary compliance with guidelines, just like the PhRMA DTC advertising guidelines.

Here's Pharma Giles' Rules and my take on them:

Rule 1: Always acknowledge or link to your sources. We Pharma Bloggers are always nicking stuff off of each other and that’s all part of the fun. But we should leave plagiarism to Pharma middle-management. It has no place here.

Good idea! I remember getting "bitch slapped" by Rost for asking Pfizer Rep Bill of Rights Blog not to use my copyright logos and images to illustrate posts (see "John Mack attacks, new blog apologizes."). Pfizer Rep Bill of Rights had no problem with my request, which was designed to protect my business's reputation. Misuse of logos and registered trademarks is even a stronger no no than using an image I may have created to illustrate a post.

Rule 2: If you get stuff wrong, correct it ASAP (I see Dr. Rost. did just that last night on his post about the Pfizer rep allegedly getting slapped.) If the error is pointed out by a fellow blogger, acknowledge that (like I did when I misquoted Fard Johnmar).

OK. Good idea, but what are we aspiring to? I don't know about you, but I don't want to be the Wall Street Journal. If I make errors, the offended party can always submit a comment. I think that's good enough for most purposes.

Rule 3: Respect the anonymity of those who wish to remain anonymous. People blog for lots of different reasons. I don’t wish to question them or try and find out who they are. (Unlike the Judge, who tried to trawl for info on the ID of Insider for reasons of his own a while back.)

I think this violates Rule 4, below. Anyway, Pharma Giles carelessly leaves out the remark I made in the post cited: "As much as we would like to learn the true identity of Insider, we must respect his wishes to remain anonymous. For if he were "outed" we would surely lose one of the best blogs in the Pharma Blogosphere."

Frankly, I don't see anything wrong with gossiping about the identity of the Insider -- it was an exercise in profiling and I certainly have no real knowledge who the insider is. Pharma Giles says "I also think that soliciting the ID of someone who clearly values his anonymity, even if you have no intentions of doing anything with that info, is equally obnoxious.'

What the heck does "soliciting" mean? For God's sake, get real! I clearly did not reveal anybody's identity.

Let me tell you a story, which several bloggers should recall. Recently a PPT was uploaded to the Pharma Blogosphere and an attenpt was made to redact the name of the person who created the deck. Unfortunately, no one realized that the person's name was there for anyone to see if they opened up the "Properties" of the PPT. Since anyone could do this, I thought the secret was out and I made a post about it. However, I was asked to rescind the post, which I did within minutes. I also fixed the PPT file by removing the name and suggesting that my new version replace the old version online. Hopefully, this was done and an innocent person's identity was protected. I don't think many people would go through so much trouble to (1) correct an error within minutes of being asked, and (2) help protect the identity of someone who wished to remain anonymous!

So, I DEEPLY resent Pharma Giles' obnoxious accusation. Of course, I don't expect an apology any time soon.

Rule 4: Don’t (be)rate other bloggers, or “dis” them, unless they break the code of conduct. Differences of opinions are fine but should be openly debated without sneering. CP is the place for that.

Been there, done that. See above.

Rule 5: If you are writing anonymously, then don’t criticise individual non-blogging folk by name. If you’re anonymous, then the subject of your writings should be afforded the same courtesy. That’s why I satirise, albeit thinly sometimes.

Rule 6: Don’t attempt to impose your own rules upon anyone else.

Regarding Rule 6, I wonder what prompted Phama Giles to include this rule because I cannot possibly imagine how anybody can impose rules on anyone else in the Pharma Blogosphere and I challenge anyone to cite a case where this has happened.

Some Other Guidelines
As I said abovem if we really want to get serious about a code of conduct, we need "guidelines", not "rules."

One guideline I would suggest concerns moderation, editing, and/or deletion of comments. I have received e-mails from pharma blog readers -- who wish to remain anonymous --who complain that their comments are not being posted. In the absence of a policy, this is rude and anti-blog by any standard.

Another guideline I would like to suggest is transparency. I remember the furor I created when i suggested that pharma bloggers who accept dinner from pharma companies should be transparent about it.

"Flaky" PharmaCentral Launched!

Far from "flaky" is Steve Woodruff's new PharmaCentral PageFlake index to the Pharma Blogosphere. Here's what he has to say:

The concept is built on what John Mack has done by creating the pharma blogosphere site, who gets credit for pulling a bunch of links together, and promoting the whole idea of pharma blogging as something of a "collective effort."

What I've done is to try to make it easier to visualize and access the blogs, with a further attempt to categorize them by emphasis.

Check it out at:

Today is the first day it is publicly accessible. I would very much like to have your feedback on a couple of things in particular:

  • whether you feel your blog is properly classified in the tabbed categories (note: each blog will be assigned to only one category)
  • whether you think the categories need to be altered to any extent to improve the classification
  • whether you feel, over time, that other blogs should be included (note: I plan to include those that have a track record of at least 3 months of solid content, and that focus pretty specifically on pharma/biotech)
[Peter Rost - your blog does not have a publicly accessible "feed", so I did not include Question Authority. But your newsworthy posts get so much attention at the other blogs that you seem omnipresent anyway!]

I made this portal because, while it is very valuable to go to each individual site, it's time-consuming and inconvenient. Feed readers are great (I use Google's), but the interface isn't ideal. PageFlakes enables a more compelling visualization and ease of access. Readers can come to one site and jump off to articles of interest from there.

By having an umbrella site like this, I hope we can all gain additional exposure, and help a growing number of other folks to keep up on the latest commentary.

Let me know your thoughts!

I really like the "flakes." If my experience is any guide, I'd say this is a work in progress -- maybe the classification needs some work. It's really difficult to classify blogs in the Pharma Blogosphere and I'm sure Steve will get some criticism. After all, you can please some bloggers some of the time, and all bloggers some of the time, but you can you can't please all bloggers all the time!

Black Kitty Loves Us Alpha Dogs and Vice Versa

BK, author of the blog "The Black Kitty - All Things Health Care Related" sent the following message of love and peace to us "alpha dogs" of the Pharma BlogosphereTM in a comment to a recent post on this blog. I thought it deserved more prominence!

As an outsider closely observing your alpha dog PHARMA blogger WARS, I can say, that in my very HUMBLE and RESPECTFUL opinion, you all should really stop focusing so much on the negatives in each others work product and use your positive intentions to build up all bloggers who share, lets say 50% or more common information or linkages to your sites.

Its a big cluster f*&*( to those who peak in for the first time). YOU ALL link so intensely to each other, I actually thought you were all one person. You don't sound even write all that differently in style. Except, Dr. Rost and Pharma Giles who are both unique, very informative, timely, and funny as hell at times.

Even little tic unread blogs like mine, Black Kitty at gcic. love getting recognition from you big dog health care bloggers.

There are several exceptionally good blogs trying to break in to get to your levels of popularity (e.g., clinical psych, furious seasons, pharma-analyst, WSP).

I believe that YOU as a community are committed to getting other men into your ALPHA DOG network of top health care blogers. You all are doing a good job of helping SOME of them.

I received PRICELESS help from Dr. Rost. Just mentioning my blog on his, gets me 100 hits in a few hours. That IS BIG TIME FOR ME. It makes me and my family really happy to see the increasing bang on analytics.. totally provided courtesy of Dr. Rost.

Thank you, TO ALL OF YOU. I LOVE reading and commenting and being a general pain in the ass.

I AM a very good statistican, and if you want to talk data analysis of your blogger survey or more objective measurement(for free) let me know.

Love and Peace,

Dr. BK
Black Kitty sounds like someone we should get to know better, even though she does seem a bit enamored of Peter Rost!

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Welcome to Pharma BlogosphereTM: Drug Safety (Notes from Within the Industry)

Another anonymous industry insider has been spotted in the Outer Sphere of the Pharma BlogosphereTM (hat tip to PharmaGossip's Jack Friday who has "discovered" more orbs in the Pharma BlogosphereTM than anyone I know).

This new blog, entitled "Drug Safety (Notes from Within the Industry)" or just "Drug Safety" for short, claims to be "dedicated to drug safety, including whispers on the grapevine within the industry."

The welcome message (published 7 April 2007) provides a bit more detail as to the blog's mission:

"This is a blog about drug safety. Because of its subject and includes lots of stuff from within the industry, it is written anonymously.

"Will everything written about here be absolutely true? I wish I could say that it will be, but the truth is, I'm not everywhere and this isn't my day job. It will include, however, clear indications that something's been whispered and may not be established fact.

How often will I post? Don't know as yet. Probably not every day. But who knows, maybe I'll get to that point."
I am interested in why bloggers choose certain color schemes for their blogs. Drug Safety, for example, is another blog that uses a Black and Green template like this blog, PharmaGossip, and Question Authority, among others. I chose black for two reasons: I wanted to emulate other blogs I respect and I felt it was appropriate for a blog about blogs in a "blogosphere" where I can make anologies with planetary spheres and so forth. Perhaps drug saftey is a "dark" subject conjuring up images of death? The color most often associated with death is black; but that's a whole 'nother topic of discussion!

Drug Safety the blog, however, does not have a morbid ambiance, nor does it emphasize gloom, doom, and the evil nature of the drug industry. Instead, it has a very rationale tone that reminds me of someone with a scientific background and experience in clinical trail design. We know the author claims to be an "insider," but he/she could be inside a pharma company or perhaps a CRO that runs clinical trials for pharmaceutical companies.

An excerpt from a recent post ("EPO and Aranesp") demonstrates that clinical trials and post-marketing surveillance will be a focus of this blog:
"Recently, one such trial came to conclusion without any indication of a safety problem. Investors (and analysts) sighed in relief. Except the trial really doesn't address anything but the crudest of questions, since the trial isn't really large enough (and wasn't designed to be large enough) to determine if there is a safety problem with the drug. What we do know is no registry data have yet been released indicating whether there's a problem. Nor have any trials an order of magnitude larger than those recently reported on been undertaken to demonstrate the product's safety. (It seems unlikely such a trial will be mounted any time soon.) What we also know is that there's lots of questions, but little clear evidence of a problem. Which isn't to say a problem doesn't exist.

"Absence of evidence isn't the same thing as evidence of absence. Never has been, never will be."
What's your mission?
Let me know by stating it here online or by email to and I will reproduce it here. Eventually, I hope to compile a comprehensive guide to the Pharma BlogosphereTM.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Welcome to Pharma Blogosphere; Health Care Renewal, Orange Book Blog, Drug Channels, etc.

A few new blogs have entered the Outer Sphere of the Pharma BlogosphereTM that I think you should look at. Keep in mind that I put ALL new blogs in the Outer Sphere until I can access whether or not they are truly focused on pharmaceutical topics and otherwise worthy of entering the Inner Sphere. [BTW, if you feel that a blog in the Outer Sphere deserves to be among the Inner Planets, drop me a comment.]

Health Care Renewal
This blog's mission states: "Address[es] threats to health care's core values, especially those stemming from concentration and abuse of power." [Have you expressed your mission yet? Please let me know what it is here.]

This sounds very promising because if you look up "concentration and abuse of power" in the Pharma Blogosphere Dictionary, you'll find a picture of a pharmaceutical company! Consequently, although Health Care Renewal covers the entire health care system, it is likely to often write about pharmaceutical industry abuses of power, since it happens so often!

Health Care Renewal has been around for quite a while, starting back on December 10, 2004 (beating my entry to the Pharma Blogosphere by 3 weeks!). Here's the opening post, which always is helpful to read whenever you are exploring blogs:

Health care around the world is beset by rising costs, declining access, stagnant quality, and increasingly dissatisfied health care professionals. Discussions with physicians and other professionals revealed pervasive concerns that the core values of health care are under siege. Patients and physicians are caught in cross-fires between conflicting interests, and subject to perverse incentives. Free speech and academic freedom are threatened. Psuedo-science and anti-science are gaining ground. Causes include the increasing dominance of health care by large organizations, often lead by the ill-informed, the self-interested, and even the corrupt. (1) However, such concentration and abuse of power in health care has rarely been discussed openly. This blog is dedicated to the open discussion of health care's current dysfunction with the hopes of generating its cures.
Oh, BTW, most of the authors are MDs.

Orange Book Blog
I love the logo! This blog focuses on the intersection of patent law and FDA law and is written by Aaron F. Barkoff, an attorney at McDonnell Boehnen Hulbert & Berghoff LLP. A few of Aaron's buddy lawyers also are said to contribute. Orange Book Blog was started on July 1, 2006.

There's obviously a lot of news here on Rx-patent litigation, which is sometimes of interest to non-lawyers. Unfortunately, if you are looking for a critical analysis (eg, what effect all this is having on the industry, suggestions for coping, etc.) rather than a concise reporting of the facts and just the facts, you won't find much of that here. After all, these are lawyers, and they expect to paid for opinions ("Readers should be aware that MBHB represents many companies in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries...").

Drug Channels

This blog is represents the "Expert viewpoints by Dr. Adam J. Fein on the latest pharmaceutical industry trends affecting manufacturers, wholesalers, pharmacies, PBMs, and payers." This blog began on May 10, 2006 and the author is the founder and president of Philadelphia-based Pembroke Consulting, Inc. The company consults with pharmaceutical manufacturers on channel strategy, which is interesting because I plan to interview some experts on channel strategy viz-a-viz impact on marketing in an upcoming podcast (see Pharma Marketing Talk).

Drug Channels appears to be a very technical sort of blog of interest only to a select few professionals involved in drug channel management. For that and other reasons it is never likely to become an Inner Planet of the Pharma Blogosphere, which doesn't mean it is not a useful or interesting blog.

Friday, April 20, 2007

'Round the Sphere: Capitalizing on VA Tech Tragedy, Rost Roasts Mack, the PharmaBlog Band

Let me start with the hottest topic making the rounds of the Pharma BlogosphereTM (and the world in general): the VA Tech Tragedy. We all want to show our support for the students of VA Tech, their families, the victims, and especially the families of the victims. Bloggers in the Pharma Blogosphere are no exception and several of us expressed our thoughts in one way or another.

Fard Johnmar at HealthcareVOX observed a daylong moment of silence on April 18; Pharma Marketing Blog (my blog) followed suit on April 19.

Pharma Giles touched upon the anti-depressant drug link issue ("No Sense at all.."), but confessed "I don't feel like trying to be funny for a while. My heart goes out to the families of those who died at Blacksburg on the morning of the 16th."

But Drug Wonks -- opportunists that they are -- immediately saw the chance to stick it to the anti-anti-depressant folks in their post "The Sorrow and the Pity." Is it OK because they prefaced their comments with "Virginia Tech sorrow and media SSRI hysteria notwithstanding, some important new science ..."? I don't think so!

Pharm Aid got its ass in a wringer when it posted "Anti-Science Propaganda" which I guess could be characterized as a screed in line with the Drug Wonk sentiment, but going a step further by characterizing the anti-anti-depressant crowd as "anti-science crowd." Pharm Aid must have gotten a lot of flack in comments because it had to announce that it would henceforth moderate comments. Good idea!

The Howard Stern of the Pharma Blogosphere!?
Which brings me to the roast that Rost wrought upon me, in which he accused me of "spinning" the results of the Pharma Blogosphere Survey, compared me to shock jock Howard Stern (I guess he doesn' have Don Imus to kick around any more), and berated me for sullying the good name of Agnes Shanley, author of On Pharma blog. You can find his comments here.

"To be, or not to be,--that is the question:--whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune or to take arms against a sea of troubles, and by opposing end them?"
Oh, what the hell! I'll choose the arms! Here's my response to Peter, which I would like to make public here:
Peter, Peter, Peter! You don't need no stinkin' survey to be popular and help you promote yourself! You're doing a great job all by yourself.

BTW, regarding the Pharma Blogosphere Survey, all the analysis was done by a third party expert in data analysis. Also, you and all the other bloggers in the survey, will receive the raw data soon and can make your own hay out of it!

I just want a bit of exclusivity considering how much work I put into this -- including giving away my products (reprints and special supplements to my Pharma Marketing News newsletter) to participants as a thank you.

Is it too much to ask that I get my chance to bask in the sun? After all, my blog didn't win top prize and I haven't dissed the winner [I should correct that: the TOP five blogs, eg, In the Pipeline] as you have!

Regarding the Cafe Pharma quotes let me say this: I have no recollection of that!

Just kidding. Really, you know it was all done tongue-in-cheek, don't you? Perhaps I took it a step too far, but putting me in the same league as Howard Stern and Imus is really unfair, you lilly-white ho!

What you may not know is that I have been in contact with Agnes Shanley who wrote in an unsolicited e-mail: "Thanks...for the link and writeup. Have been chuckling about it all morning, and hope it generates some discussion. Your points were all good/true, too." [I don't think she meant that the comments attributed to "anonymous" were good and true. Everyone, I hope, realizes that those comments were taken from unrelated Cafe Pharma posts and were meant to illustrate how "uncivil" some people can be online. Sorry, if there was any confusion about that. See also Agnes' post: “Tough Love” from John Mack?] I have since helped Agnes by noting that her comments were not working and that's why her site is not getting comments from readers! No one else took the time or effort to give her a heads up!

So, I like to think that I give as much as I take and I hope most bloggers in the Pharma Blogosphere will back me up on that!
Can I hear an Amen?

Let Me Introduce You to the Band
PharmaGossip's PharmaBlog Band that is! Guess who's the lead guitar? See him here. Peter Rost, Ed Silverman, and Jack Friday himself are the backup members.

We Are Family
In a few short months I have seen the Pharma Blogosphere blossom into a strong family that has garnered a lot of attention. Much credit has to go to Peter Rost and journalist bloggers like Jim Edwards, Ed Silverman, and the guys at the WSJ Health Blog, for accelerating this process.

A growing family is bound to have problems as we learn to live together. So, just because this week Peter and I seem to be at odds, it doesn't mean we are dysfunctional. At least I hope not. Sometimes we can go too far and I am sorry.

That's it. I've done apologizing! Now back to the music...

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Who Loves Ya Baby? The TOP 5 Blogs According to Industry Readers

As many readers of the Pharma BlogosphereTM blog know, back in February we hosted the First Ever Pharma Blogosphere reader survey. A sampling of results of this survey have already been published on this blog (see "Industry Bias in the Pharma Blogosphere" and "Pharma Blogosphere Survey Results - Who and Why?").

The full results of the survey will be published in the April, 2007 issue of Pharma Marketing News and presented at the Spring 2007 Healthcare Blogging Summit 2007 being held in Las Vegas on April 29. (I better get my ass in gear to get ready for that!).

In this installment I present some data showing the top 5 pharma blogs ranked by survey respondents who said they were employed at pharmaceutical companies. Recall that blogs were ranked according to Readability (layout, ease of reading and finding information), Usefulness (for keeping readers aware of the issues), and Credibility (accuracy of information). The results are shown in the following slide.

Note: N=43 industry readers; shows top five blogs in each category; only blogs with more than 5 respondent ratings were considered.

Some Take-aways
Only three blogs -- In the Pipeline, EyeOnFDA, and Pharma Marketing Blog -- made the "Industry Top 5" in each category. Props to In the Pipeline for being #1 in Usefulness and Credibility, and #2 in Readability!

Surprisingly, Drug Wonks was considered the most readable, but did not make the Top 5 in either of the other 2 categories. I reveal more about that in the upcoming Pharma Marketing News article.

Sorry, Peter, Question Authority -- popular as it might be among all readers -- did not make the "Industry Top 5" in any category! But I will say this: Industry readers thought that Question Authority was more supportive of the industry than did non-industry readers! In fact, it was second on that list (behind Pharma Marketing Blog) of blogs that the industry thought supportive. Perhaps if the survey was done over again today, industry respondents would have a different opinion! Perhaps more closely aligned with a view expressed on CafePharma; namely, "This Rost guy is a Michael Moore crony that is an industry and medical community outcast that has nothing better to do then sit at his computer all day long blogging about things he knows little about, blowing things out of proportion, and surfing porn."

Kind in mind that this survey covered only 22 blogs. Today the field is much bigger! Also, several blogs were very new when the survey was run and, consequently, may not have had enough history to be properly judged.

There will be another Pharma Blogosphere Reader survey in the Fall. Stay tuned!

Civility on CafePharma: Oxymoronic Wishhful Thinking

On Pharma has taken on CafePharma, calling for "a little civility" (see "How About a Little Civility, On-Line and Off? Thoughts on Cafe Pharma and Blogger Kathy Sierra’s Call for a Code of Conduct").

To respond to this call for a code of conduct, I decided that a point-counterpoint approach would be entertaining if not enlightening. I will take the point whereas a colleague -- let's call him/her "anonymous" -- will handle the counterpoint.

Point (John Mack): Forgive me for saying so, Ms. Shanley (who I assume wrote the On Pharma post), but a call for civility on CafePharma is a bit oxymoronic, wouldn't you say? It would be in the realm of other famous oxymorons like "military intelligence" and "ethical pharmaceuticals."

Please don't take my criticisms personally; I really enjoy your blog and urge everyone to read it, although I note that no one has bothered to comment on your post or any other post on your blog that I can see. Not that that's a bad thing! But you are free to throw rocks at CafePharma because you don't live in a glass house like it does. What I mean to say -- and forgive me for being so blunt and please realize that this is "tough love" from a friend -- you are not saying anything that your readers seem to care strongly about. Consequently, you don't have to put up with any nasty, heat-of-the-moment comments. A code of conduct, therefore, would be easy for you to implement, but would be impossible for CafePharma, which has over 14,000 over-sexed registered users and gazillions of posts! Again, forgive me for being so critical. I think you are a wonderful person.

Counterpoint (anonymous): The only word that can accurately describe you is inept. Are you kidding me? Stick your ethics up your ass. Listen up, you skeevy retard: You should have clean hands before you start spewing moral turpitude...Typing fagbot on an internet forum is not the same thing as screaming it out while waiting at the counter for my BK Broiler. You remain an idiot! Selfish egotistical asshole. If you are so interested in doing the right thing why don't you ... get into a circle jerk?

["anonymous" quotes were abstracted from several actual CafePharma posts.]

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Pass it on: Blog Silence in Memory of Students Slain at VA Tech

Fard Johnmar at HealthcareVOX has a great idea: a daylong moment of silence on this blog tomorrow in honor of those killed and wounded in today's senseless shooting rampage at Virginia Tech.

Pass it On!

Bloggers Compete to Sling Mud at AZ; CafePharma Slings Back

Another day and another flurry of Rost e-mail and Rost posts that lead to posts on other blogs -- most notably pharmalot, BrandweekNRX, and PharmaGossip!

Even Rost is getting tired of the one-upmanship needed to keep up with the "journalist bloggers" who seem to have too many resources at their disposal.

In this mud-slinging contest it seems that anything is blogworthy -- even drivel posted on the CafePharma bulletin boards. All the aforementioned blogs have posted CafePharma comments or links to these comments (see here, here, and here).

However, they have left out the juiciest CafePharma comments, which I now will dutifully reproduce here.

"Group of seven of the biggest pussies... Stick your ethics up your ass. Posting BS on cafepharma is soooooo ethical. You and Michael Moore -looking out for society. I feel soooo comforted. One needs to have a nut sack before they start preaching about ethics." [Hat Tip to Pharma Ethics, My Foot! Blog]

"What next - Peter Rost reports that an anonymous insider at AZ HQ transcribed the writing on the men's bathroom wall and this just in " reports that AZ VIP shits here every morning at about ten-thirty and he just TEARS the place up... AZ VIP has stinkiest shit in all of pharma...". You heard it here first at"

"Peter Peter - this just in. We have been backdating options, we are hiding costs with overseas funds transfers, we rigged the data on almost all our clinical trials, we put investigational drugs into the eyes of baby rabbits, we are against women, blacks, gays and middle aged white men, some of our employees speak foreign languages, our reps try to sell to doctors every day, and those are not raisins in the salad in the employee cafeteria, they are rat turds. Blog that asshole."

"This Rost guy is a Michael Moore crony that is an industry and medical community outcast that has nothing better to do then sit at his computer all day long blogging about things he knows little about, blowing things out of proportion, and surfing porn."

Ha, ha! I can see it now. Rost and Moore yukking it up, throwing back a few beers (well, beers for Moore, Martinis for Rost). Yep, they really don't like Rost. Surprise, Surprise!

They have a few choice words for the AZ Group of Seven. Whereas, PharmaGossip compares them to the Magnificent Seven, CafePharma AZ reps have something else in mind:

"Group of 7.....
douche bag
sloppy cunt
dick wipe

Get the picture ass holes?
Selfish egotistical assholes. If you are so interested in doing the right thing why don't you all get into a circle jerk and then have a deep discussion to discuss your exit strategy from AZ."

Ah! That CafePharma aroma! I love the smell of CafePharma! That know, that genitalia smell.. It smells like...Victory!

Some day this mud slinging's going to end....

'Round the Sphere: Rost Rocks, AZ PR Meltdown, New Name Exposed

Does Peter Rost (Question Authority) rock your world or wreck it?

If your world is the pharmaceutical industry and the AstraZeneca corner of it in particular, you probably would say that he is wrecking your world.

To us bloggers in the Pharma BlogosphereTM, however, Rost Rocks!

Think of Rost in his best "deep throat" outfit sitting on a park bench in Wilmington, DE (US headquarters of AstraZeneca). Mysterious people stop by and sit next to him for a few minutes and then leave. Rost throws some crumbs on the ground and immediately a flock of pigeons swoops in and gobbles them up!

But Rost doesn't have to go anywhere to "scoop" the likes of journalist bloggers like Ed Silverman (Pharmalot) and Jim Edwards (BrandweekNRX). He merely has to sit in fromt of his computer in NJ somewhere and groups of seven come to him with incriminating evidence.

From time to time I too have been a pigeon feasting on Rost's crumbs. It certainly has been fun.

The latest crumb is the Powerpoint presentation "smoking gun" and "proof of questionable promotional practices in connection with selling of AstraZeneca’s cancer drug ARIMIDEX ® (anastrozole)", according to Rost (see "The AstraZeneca Controversy Increases with More Proof of Questionable Practices").

Rost won't reveal who at AZ created this PPT. He quotes an internal AZ memo:

"Below you'll find the updated BIG 1-98 presentation put together by [name redacted] and myself for your background use. Please make sure that you study this information thoroughly. Hopefully it will make understanding the benefits of Arimidex over letrozole a little easier for all of us. We really worked on simplifying all of the data for your use."
If you dig a little deeper in this dirt, you may be able to find out who created the slides. All you have to do is ... and you will find this person's name, which is...[find it here in the comments section].

P.S. Sorry! Upon special request from a person of interest, the comment referred to above, which revealed the name of the person who may have prepared the smoking gun slide deck has be temporarily deleted.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Welcome "Pharma Blogs: Week in Review"

Well, well, lookee here! We've been vindicated! My friends at MedAdNews/ have decided to do a newsletter about the Pharma Blogosphere(tm). Welcome Christiane and thanks for mentioning me in your premier issue. I am sure we'll be stealing stuff from each other for a long time to come! (not that there's anything wrong with that!)

If you want to subscribe to this newsletter, go here.

P.S. One comment: The less time you spend on obscure Byzantine pornographers and the more time you spend on US, the better! Unless you actually include Byzantine pornographic images!

'Round the Sphere: You're Fired, You Too! More Blogs to View!

First, Mike Zubillaga was fired by AZ. Then Don Imus was fired by CBS! Both for saying something stupid! It goes to show that employees everywhere, not just in pharmaceutical companies, do dumb things.

But these incidents are connected in another way: bloggers in the Pharma Blogosphere may have played a role in getting these guys fired.

Peter Rost (Question Authority; damn! another reference to Rost which will raise him even higher on the topics list! I'm sure he'll note this in his blog!) was quick to take credit for Zube's demise. I don't think anyone in the Pharma Blogosphere would dispute that. See "Peter Rost gets an AstraZeneca employee fired." (Medical Weblog)

But did you know that a famous Pharma Blogosphere blogger may have been partially responsible for the firing of Imus? And who would this blogger be? Why, me, of course! Whaaa?!! you say? It's true. Here's how I figure it.

First, I call upon GSK to pull its ads from the Imus in the Morning show (see "Glaxo, Pull Your Imus Ads!"). That was posted at 6 AM on Wednesday, April 11. At around 5 PM that day I notice a post on PharmaGossip reporting that GSK pulled its ads ("GSK pulls ads from Imus' show").

All that day, I had been watching my Web logs and noticed that GSK and their PR agency people were reading the post (Peter Rost is not the only blogger that reads his log files and reveals the identity of his readers, but that's another story). Then, GSK announces it will pull their ads! (look here and here).

But GSK doesn't issue any kind of statement, as did P&G, citing "we're accountable first to our consumers." Instead of putting their consumers first, GSK put itself first: "The bottom line is that we have suspended our advertising with MSNBC until we can determine that we can have a level of confidence that our media standards are being adhered to."

Not only does GSK put itself first, it uses the dreaded "bottom line" phrase. This says volumes as to where pharma's priorities lie and until the industry becomes more consumer-centric in both word and deed, they will never win the PR war for the hearts of consumers (for more on that, see "Pharma Still Stinks, But Not as Much as Oil or Tobacco!").

So, I call for GSK to pull its ads --> GSK pulls its ads --> And by pulling their ads, GSK and other advertisers put the screws to CBS, which fires Imus! QED!

But enough about me already!

New Members
The Pharma Blogosphere blog is becoming the place to be noticed by bloggers and readers of blogs alike! I no longer have to explore the outer limits of the sphere to find new members -- they come to me!

Whenever I come upon a new blog worthy of being a member, I automatically put it in the "Outer Sphere" column until I can assess whether or not they are truly focused on pharma and are updated often enough. Only those blogs that fit these two criteria make it to the Inner Planet circle of the Pharma Blogosphere.

These new blogs have been added to the "Outer Sphere" recently:

Drug Channels: "Expert viewpoints by Dr. Adam J. Fein on the latest pharmaceutical industry trends affecting manufacturers, wholesalers, pharmacies, PBMs, and payers" is its tagline. "My focus is helping manufacturers understand/interact with their supply chain to the patient: pharmacies, wholesalers, PBMs, etc.," says Adam in a personal email.

Labs' Insider
: "A journey to the dark side of the pharmaceutical industry" says this blog'stagline. I guess you don't have to guess the bias of the blogger Pierre Tavel, who is Swiss and a student in sociology.

Pharma Ethics, My Foot!: Again, you don't need a mission statement to know where Paul Marinelli, the blogger, stands on pharma issues. I never would have thought anyone would dis the idea of ethics so blatantly, but there you have it. I would like to see Paul actually make a post ABOUT ethics, however.

Focus on Pharmalyst
You may have noticed that I moved some blogs into or out of the Inner Planet circle. Pharmalyst, for example, was moved in. First, I like numbers and that is what this blog is about. Sorry, there is no second.

JS, the blogger, hopes one day to find a job in the pharmaceutical industry, so he is keeping his identity a secret:

"Only reason I wish to be anonymous is that I hope to graduate sometime next year and at that point I hope to apply for jobs at:

a. Many pharma companies: Specifically looking for jobs in the market research/finance area
b. Any financial type company covering the pharma sector

I am sure that if they knew my status as a blogger, my resume will go straight to the trash can. For a lot of reasons (family/friends etc), I like the pharma industry and I really respect the science & innovation that comes out of this industry..and I am also aware that there are a lot of shady practices in the industry (thanks to all you bloggers). I have been reading many of the pharma blogs for months and hopefully have absorbed some of the jargon/lingo via osmosis. I hope this will give me an advantage re the job search. I also wish to learn more about the industry by chiming in with my own 2 cents and get feedback from the 35 readers I seem to be averaging :-)

If I do get a job with one of these companies, I probably will stop blogging though I will continue reading all the great blogs out there :-)"
Too bad that JS feels he has to give up blogging once he is a hired gun for the industry. Maybe he should have been more coy about that because this lowers him one notch on my credibility scale.

Phama Giles ("Fresh Fruit From Rotting Vegetables...") had this to say on that:
"Don’t do it!" was my initial reaction.

Such is the level of arrogance and hubris within the industry, that I fear Pharmalyst’s putative career may already be over faster than you can say “illegal IP trace”. But perhaps I am being unduly pessimistic. Or paranoid. Or just plain stupid. Hey, let’s not be narrow-minded here. I could so easily be all three.
Giles, another anonymity, goes on to rant and rave about how bad it is to work in the industry. yadda, yadda, yadda

My view: Go for it kid! And do good things. We need more people like you inside pharmaceutical companies, not less! Who knows, by the time you apply for a job, pharma may have cottoned to blogs and want someone with blogging experience. Hey, it could happen!

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Welcome "AZ Group of Seven"

There are at least 7 "honest AstraZeneca employees scattered around headquarters and field sales" according to a recent manifesto communicated to Peter Rost and published in Question Authority and Pharma Marketing Blog.

A new blog -- AZ Group of Seven -- has appeared in the Pharma Blogosphere. It's mission is to roam the Sphere picking up anonymous comments from the mysterious "AZ Group of Seven" (code named "whiskey").

If you are one of the "7 honest AstraZeneca employees" out there, you may submit comments anonymously to the AZ Group of Seven Blog! Even if you are not one of the seven employees or not even an AZ employee, but just want to pretend to be one, you are welcome to submit comments.


Tell us what's it's like to be an honest AZ employee. Who are the jerks? Go ahead, name names! It's all good!

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

What's Your Mission/Vision Thing?

Blogging is more than getting your personal voice out there and commenting on the news trying to "scoop" the competition.

It's also about promoting a cause, or agenda if you will, that you believe in. I offer these two examples from Pharma Marketing Blog (my blog): my call today for Glaxo to pull its ads from the Imus show (see "Glaxo, Pull Your Imus Ads!") and my call for a Call for a Rozerem Prescription Boycott.

If you want to be totally balanced and unbiased, become a journalist! In fact, more journalists are becoming bloggers because their identities and beliefs are masked under all the journalistic trappings necessary to the success of news media.

Several bloggers in the Pharma Blogosphere have a "mission." My mission, for example, is to promote good pharmaceutical marketing practices and thereby improve the image of the pharmaceutical industry. The mission of Richard Meyer over at World of DTC Marketing is to get pharmaceutical marketers more interested in online marketing and focus TV DTC ads on the appropriate products. Peter Rost at Question Authority has a mission too: to destroy Pfizer! (just kidding). Fard Johnmar at HealthcareVOX has a Web 2.0 vision. Etc, Etc.

What's YOUR mission?

I encourage all Pharma Bloggosphere bloggers to state their mission in a little survey I have created. You can also publish your vision or mission statement in your blog and I will link to it here.

Enter your mission statement in this online form.


Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Is Pharma Fun to Write/Read About?

Peter Rost (Question Authority) thinks it's "fun" to write about pharmaceutical companies. I know he is having fun now, but it didn't seem like he was having so much fun early on in his blogging career.

Anyway, Rost had this to say in a comment to a recent post I made:

"Big pharma can simply not, no matter how much they try, not be fun to write about."
Once you untangle all the "nots," I think this is equivalent to saying that pharma is fun to write about. Rost thinks it will be even more fun once pharma starts blogging:
"Imagine all the stuff we'll get to blog about as they try. There will be no limit to the amount of fun we can have. Just look at all the fun being had with ads, commercials and speeches."
To which I responded:
"I imagine people said the same sort of thing in the days before pharma embraced DTC advertising. Pharma's been laughing all the way to the bank since then!"
YouPharmaDare I predict that someday pharma will successfully embrace Web 2.0 and profit by it (see "YouPharma(tm): A Brave New World of Marketing?")?

Who knows what the future holds? So have your fun now while you can!

But there's fun and then there's "fun." Please tell me what kind of "fun" you have writing about pharma. If you are a reader of pharma blogs and not a writer, just substitute "Read" for "Write" in the following little poll:

Is Pharma "Fun" to Write About?
Yes, unequivocally!
Yes, like watching a train wreck!
Yes, like a sharp needle to the eye!
Yes, like setting a cat on fire!
Yes, like tripping a bully on the playground!
Yes, yes, Oooooh yes! (like sex)

Monday, April 9, 2007

'Round the Sphere: The Zubillaga Affair and Aftermath

The Zubillaga Affair is ringing through the Pharma Blogosphere, turning a quiet holiday weekend into a blog feeding frenzy!

In case you are just coming back from a sans Internet vacation, the Zubillaga Affair concerns an AstraZeneca internal Oncology newsletter that published a controversial analogy made by Mike Zubillaga, AZ's Mid-Atlantic regional sales director/oncology. Mike was subsequently terminated and AZ is currently trying to worm its way out of an embarrassing regulatory/employee management faux pas.

It all started with a post on CafePharma, which is not technically a blog, but by virtue of this recent flap, has won a place in the "Outer Sphere" list (see right).

Then, Peter Rost got hold of the "smoking gun" and distributed it amongst his blogger pals (see Question Authority).

The story was quickly picked up by BrandweekNRX, Pharmalot, PharmaGossip, and finally, AP via the Philadelphia Inquirer!

The best way to track all this is under Question Authority's AstraZeneca topic label.

While other bloggers speculated on who else would be fired at AZ to coverup its lax oversight of published employee comments, I refelected on how this would affect the adoption of blogging by pharmaceutical companies (see "The Zubillaga Affair: Effect on the Prospects for Pharma Blogging").

Although I feel this will nip off any pharma "toes in the blogging water," I still held out hope for pharma employee blogs if the following criteria could be met:

Rules for Pharma Employee Blogging
The following personnel should NOT be allowed to contribute to employee blogs:

  • Marketing, sales, legal, or corporate communications personnel
  • Managers or higher
The following personnel should be ENCOURAGED to contribute to employee blogs:
  • Rank and file employees including secretaries, assistants, etc.
  • Research and development personnel, including clinicians, lab people, etc.
Peter Rost thought I had lost my mind:

I have to admit that I fail to understand why a secretary could be more trusted blogging than someone in legal, or corporate communications personnel. John, are you OK over there???

Frankly, to think that any highly regulated pharma company would encourage their employees to blog at anytime, anywhere, about anything, including the company is ludicrous.

I offer the following in defense of my sanity:

My idea for pharma employee blogs is to help pharmaceutical companies bring opinions of the rank-and-file employee to the forefront.

We always hear from the corporate shills and the sales and marketing people as well as approved messages from managers, directors and CEOs. These employees are incorrigible BS artists! What I seldom get to hear is what the rank-and-file "pharma folks" think.

I would never trust ANY employee to submit posts to a blog without some oversight (ie, moderation)! But the oversight should be a decision to post the entry or not to post it, rather than submitting it to corporate communications for a re-write. The employee can be asked to reword some things to protect trade secrets, etc., but the employee can opt-out of having the edited post put into the blog.

Who should moderate such a blog? That is a good question. Sorry, I don't feel like giving away all my ideas for free!

The important thing is to hear the "voice" of the rank-and-file. I believe that many of these people are honest people who believe in what their companies are doing and they may not like some excessive marketing and sales practices that we all see criticized every day.

From the perspective of the pharma company, I am sure they would not want negative blog posts from employees pointing out the problems of the industry -- there is enough of that on CafePharma and elsewhere.

What the industry needs -- and frankly what I'd like to see -- is genuine, POSITIVE stories told in the real voice of employees. Yes, it may be one-sided, but it is the side of the story the industry always complains never gets told, at least not from believable sources.

P.S. Poll Results
I almost forgot to mention the PharmaGossip Poll. According to Peter Rost in a comment to the WSJ Health Blog post on this subject: "According to the poll going on over at PharmaGossip, most people seem to feel that the guy was just telling it like it is and that AstraZeneca is trying to put out a fire they started. I agree with those comments, especially considering that AstraZeneca had no problem with the quotes in the newsletter for months, until it was discovered by news media."

P.P.S. AZ Takes No Action Until Discovered by News Media
Although we have to give the Pharma Blogosphere (especially Question Authority) for "breaking" this story, it still takes the traditional media to get action. Of course, we've seen this time and time again.

The lesson here is that pharmaceutical companies need to monitor the Pharma Blogosphere with more diligence and they may be able to buy some time to make the right decision BEFORE it hits the press!

P.P.P.S. It Was Beauty (Rost) That Killed the Beast Zubillaga!
See comments.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Welcome Confarta!

A new member has been added to the Outer Sphere of the Pharma Blogosphere: the Confarta Blog!

Confarta blog is brought to us by the Williams & Williams Pharmaceutical Company. Since 2004, Williams & Williams has been providing relief for millions of people around the world. We are a full service pharmaceutical company that lives by the motto, "In all phases of life, we're right behind you."

This is the first ever pharmaceutical company sponsored blog! (Hat Tip to Peter Rost for the link!)

Charles Charles is the company's #1 sales rep. View this video of Charles in action:

Although Charles believes in the motto "Always be Closing," he does have time to explore CafePharma:

Get Off My Back! I Love Sally!

I may rue the day I posted my "Web 2.0 Hates Sally" entry to Pharma Marketing Blog!

I only did it because Jim Edwards over at BrandweekNRX wrote a piece about old news; ie, the FTC is looking into the practice of using celebrities in ads and is especially concerned about the lack of transparency exhibited by celebrities who do not mention they are being paid to promote products on talk shows (see "FTC Begins Review of Celebrities in Ads After Stars Take Undisclosed Drug Money").

In my post -- which tried to illustrate Jim's point -- I cited some comments from consumers on "social network" sites that dissed Sally. One person related how Sally tried repeatedly to steer Martha Stewart to a discussion of bone health and Boniva on the Martha Stewart show.

This got me to thinking about some questions that I thought needed answering, including these: "Are celebrities paid more if they mention the drug name? Are they paid less if they cannot get the whole message on the show?

Next thing I know, PharmaGossip is asking "Mack vs Field - where is the love?" and I receive this comment from "Beth":

"Perhaps Ms. Fields (sic) feels passionate about the subject of osteoporosis. Perhaps Ms. Fields mother was bent over with a dowagers hump and Ms. Fields is so relieved to know that her fate can be different that she has become a tad evangelical about the subject. Lighten one is going to run out and buy Boniva on the street corner. Osteoporosis is a real problem for many women."
Jeez! Imply anything negative about Sally Field and you get mail from all over the world!

I can see that Sally is an unassailable spokesperson worth her weight in gold. But how much gold? And under what terms? That and transparency was the main points of my post, not whether or not Sally has osteoporosis or whether or not it is a real medical condition.

So, lighten up already! I love Sally!

On to other Pharma Blogospshere matters...

'Round the Outer Rim: New Blog Sigthings
It's always exciting to discover new orbs in the Pharma Blogosphere. This past week, two blogs have moved within the Outer Rim of The Pharma Blogosphere: The Group Guy (Independent Thought On Employee Benefit Matters For Employers) and Catalyst Online Blog (The Authority in Healthcare Search Marketing).

Dan Buckle, author of The Group Guy, says he "gave up the fast lane for a bigger piece of sky," by which I guess he means one of two things: he's retired or fired from the industry about which he is an expert. Just kiddin', Dan.

Dan is a passionate saltwater wade fisherman in search of a 30" Speckled Trout. Dan, we're all looking to catch a big fish here in the Pharma Blogosphere! You should fit right in!

That's him -- I assume the one wearing the hat -- in the photo above left.

Anyway, The Group Guy's focus is on employee benefits and right now is very focused on the pharmaceutical industry and PBMs. As long as that remains a focus, The Group Guy at least will have a place in the outer reaches of our sphere.

The other blog new to the Pharma Blogosphere is Catalyst online blog, which is all about search engine marketing with a focus on healthcare.

The author is Heather Frahm, co-founder and president of Catalyst online, a leading provider of search marketing services predominately for healthcare companies.

According to Heather -- who incidentally is one of the few women bloggers in the Pharma Blogosphere -- the Catalyst online blog is "meant to engage, inform and enlighten marketing professionals who are either actively practicing search marketing or simply interested in learning more about the power and impact of establishing an effective search marketing strategy for their company or brand."

Maybe she can enlighten us on exactly how much pharmaceutical companies spend on search. I've heard from the folks at eMarketer that about 40% of the industry's online ad budget goes to search. If we knew how much that was, we can then estimate how much money overall the industry spends online. Now that would be a big effing trout to have in our net!