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!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

'Round the Sphere: True Confessions and Omissions

Dr. Carlat's (author of The Carlat Psychiatry Blog) confession of a past stint as a paid drug industry "consultant" was first sighted by me in the Wall Street Journal Health Blog here.

[BTW, kudos for to the WSJ Health Blog for attaining the #6 position in eDrugSearch's list of Top 100 health Blogs. This beats Pharmalot, which has dropped back to #42. Pharma Marketing Blog, however, is close behind WSJ in the #11 position!]

Howard Brody over at Hooked on Ethics blog pointed out a few things Dr. Carlat omitted ini his confession and suggested that the $30,000 Dr. Carlat received as "honoraria" was actually a bribe to prescribe more Effexor ER (see Carlat's 'Dr. Drug Rep'--Some Further Possibilities). He also suggested that the same is true for the other 199,999 physician "consultants."

I dunno. The math just doesn't work for me. $30,000 is a lot to get maybe 25 or so new patients on the drug, which is probably the extent that Dr. Carlat to increase his NRx for Effexor ER. I offered a different ROI analysis in my post on the topic (see "Dr. Carlat's True Confession: 199,999 More to Go").

My conception of the conversation Dr. Carlat had with the Wyeth sales manager the day after he was less than a stellar spokesperson for Effexor ER (see here for the back story).

You might also want to read the comments posted to Carlat's own blog here. One comment posted by a psychiatrist in private practice in NYC included this confession, demonstrating once again how naive physicians claim to be:
"I was particularly struck, okay, terrified, by your description of the way the AMA sells information, and that that, and purchasing prescribing information from pharmacies aren't illegal. Everyone's so conscious of HIPAA laws, you'd think there would be some corresponding protection for physician privacy."
Carlat also claimed to be "astonished" at the level of information drug companies have about the prescribing habits of physicians. As if that were some kind of state secret!

As for "physician privacy," imagine if the prescribing habits of physicians were really considered private information that the public had no right to see! How would we hold them accountable? As a matter of fact, the government (eg, HHS) should spend some dough getting their hands on these data and see if physicians really are prescribing the right drugs for patients and link Rx behavior with patient outcomes. O yeah, forgot. That would require universal electronic medical records -- a pipe dream long forgotten by the current administration!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Happy Turkey Day! Will the Last Person to Leave the Internet Please Shut Off the Lights?

Have you noticed how quiet the Internet is today?

No spam email! Hardly any visitors to Web sites!

Am I the last guy here?

Like everyone else, I soon will be outta here and starting my traditional Thanksgiving Day period of celebration.

Since I am hosting the feast this year, I am not traveling. So I may indeed be the last person to leave the Pharma Blogosphere, although I suspect I will be vying for that honor with Ed Silverman over at Pharmalot!

Happy Thanksgiving to Ed and all my blogging buddies!

Monday, November 19, 2007

You Need to Be THIS Smart to Read This Blog

bullshitAlex Sugarman-Brozan, author of the Prescription Access Litigation Blog, sent me notice of the Blog Readability Test, which supposedly grades the readability of blogs and websites (see his post on this topic here).

Alex points out several problems with the scoring system used by this test.

Alex points out: "It’s at No information is available about who wrote it, how they determine the readability, which of the various tools out there they use, etc. So its results must be taken with a grain of salt."

So here -- without the salt -- are some results for a few of my favorite blogs in the Pharma Blogosphere (in descending order, more or less):

Alex is disappointed that the PAL Blog is written at the Genius level. He actually covets Peter Rost's Junior High School rating! Go figure.

Meanwhile, if you would like to see how actual readers rate some of these blogs, take a look at this (yeah, yeah, unscientific) survey.

Friday, November 16, 2007

'Round the Sphere: RLS redux -- Rost's Legal Suit

Peter Rost, a former Pfizer VP, wins appeal in qui tam case against Pfizer Inc.

Peter Rost, the writer of NRX, filed a qui tam suit against Pfizer Inc., during his employment as Vice President at Pfizer. The suit alleged illegal marketing of Genotropin, a growth hormone.

The information in the suit resulted in Pfizer paying a $34.7 million fine in April 2007, however, the district court ultimately held that 'Rost failed to plead his fraud claims with sufficient specificity' and his civil suit was dismissed.

Yesterday the United States Court of Appeals For the First Circuit vacated the decision by the district court to dismiss Rost's suit, and concluded in its ruling, 'The dismissal of the action is vacated. The case is remanded to the district court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

What this means is that Rost gets an opportunity to amend his original complaint with additional information requested by the court.

"In other words," says Ed Silverman over at Pharmalot, "he's back in the game and may, ultimately, win a slice of the Pfizer fine."

Hmmm... slice. Hmmm... donuts!

Speaking of RLS and piles of money, can you guess how much money the US healthcare system may be wasting treating Restless Leg Syndrome with Requip?

Is it:

$150,000 per year?
$1,250,000 per year?
$285,000,000 per year?
$1,100,000,000 per year?

I know. I know. It depends on what you mean by "waste."

Anyway, over at Pharma Marketing Blog, I whipped out my trusty Microsoft desktop calculator and did some math so that you don't have to.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

'Round the Sphere: RLS Videos. Creepy, Crawly, Weird, and Wired!

It all started innocently enough with a post by Ed Silverman over at Pharmalot. On Tuesday, Ed called our attention to a Consumer Reports video critique of the classic "Creepy, Crawly" Requip Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) TV ad (see "Debunking TV Ads: Installment #1").

Although Ed's post was published about 12 days after CR first uploaded the video on its web site, I think the post woke up the sleeping RLS Foundation, GSK, and their PR minions who set to work debunking the debunkers.

That same day (Nov. 13) I received a comment from an anonymous Pharma Marketing Blog reader notifying me that the RLS Foundation had that day sent an e-mail to its members urging a boycott of CR. The Foundation also wrote a letter to CR. I posted a note about this turn of events on my blog the next morning (see "RLS Foundation (aka GSK?) Calls for Boycott of Consumer Reports Over Ad Spoof").

Since then, I have received numerous comments to my post in defense of the RLS Foundation. All say the same thing: it's a real independent patient organization (as opposed to an "astroturf" organization founded by GSK and BI) and RLS is a "real" medical condition. Yadda, yadda, yadda.

I have reason to believe the initial comment and some of the others have been orchestrated by buzz marketers who have not flawlessly executed the "Posing as a Consumer on Social Networks" Web 2.0 trick (see "Web 2.0 Pharma Marketing Tricks for Dummies").

Last night (Nov. 14) Wired Science aired the video "The Business of Disease" on primetime TV (PBS). The main attraction was a demonstration of an RLS simulator "designed as an awareness piece for the physician community ... so they will have a better understanding of the science" (see "RLS Simulator: Weird Wired Science").

BTW, the Wired Science video is real journalism as opposed to the CR video. The WS piece includes interviews with physicians and marketing experts, including my friend Rich Myer over at World of DTC Marketing blog. Thanks to my recommendation to the Wired Science people, Rich was interviewed at his home where he had this to say about the role of marketing:

"Creating a need, that's what marketing is all about," said Myer. "If people don't know they have a need, create a need."
Amen, brother!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Do You Buy AdAge's Thesis About Frayed Attention Disorder?

According to Advertising Age, Americans Long for a Chance to Rest, Replenish and Reboot. We are, says AdAge, "Whipsawed by Stimuli" and "Our Attention Is Fraying and Disorders Are Multiplying."

I call it Frayed Attention Disorder (FAD).

What's the cause?

According the AdAge reporter, what's causing FAD in Americans is all the bad news about "Car bombs in Iraq. Car bombs in Afghanistan. Coordinated car bomb attacks in Pakistan. And then -- to vary the tempo -- a visit to the funeral of the victim of a car bombing (that gets car bombed)."

Could it be something closer to AdAge's home causing FAD?

Please read my comments on Pharma Marketing Blog and join me in blasting this thesis.

Mirapex Buzz Marketers Make Hay from RLS Foundation's Attack on Video Spoof of Requip Ad

I find myself blessed! Buzz marketers have me on their short list of people/bloggers to notify about issues that benefit their lords and masters.

Today, for example, I received a comment from that guy "Anonymous" who notified me that the Restless Leg Syndrome Foundation urged its "members" to cancel their subscriptions to Consumer Reports because of the "extremely sarcastic and insulting video" that spoofs a Requip TV ad.

You can read all about this, including the comments I received from the Mirapex user (aka, Mirapex buzz marketer), links to the CR video and RLS Foundation letter to CR, in today's post to Pharma Marketing Blog: "RLS Foundation (aka GSK?) Calls for Boycott of Consumer Reports Over Ad Spoof".

I suspect several other bloggers will receive similar comments from "Mirapex users." Ed Silverman over at Pharmalot wrote a short piece about the CR Requip video spoof. So far, I haven't seen any other bloggers chime in on this. My advice is to take a look at the RLS Foundation's letter -- it has enough material in it for a dozen blog posts!

Meanwhile, have you seen Peter Rost's post on NRx about the man who grew roots like a tree? This is a classic, must-see Rost post! I am not sure, but it may also be a plug for a Discovery TV documentary scheduled to air this week. Keep up the good work Peter!

Thursday, November 8, 2007

The Tortured Tchotchke and the Thanksgiving Turkey Giveaway

Pharmalot and Pharma Marketing Blog have both reported on FDA's letter to Scios "requesting" that it cease dissemination of violative Natrecor computer mouse pad and pen tchotchkes that it has been giving as gifts to physicians.

The mouse pad is pictured at the left.

FDA cited these baubles as "inappropriate reminder labeling." Read more what the FDA said here.

Speaking of "reminders," all this language and imagery reminds me of waterboarding and the recent confirmation hearings for attorney general nominee Michael Mukasey, who has refused to categorically reject the practice as torture.

More importantly, however, is the "gift" that FDA gave Scios: about two weeks to "respond" to the FDA complaint with a "plan" for how it will comply. Who knows what the plan's timeline for compliance will be, but I wouldn't be surprised if the Scios reps were able to unload ALL the Natrecor tchotches stockpiled in their garages by Thanksgiving, thus saving Scios a lot of money, which could be used to buy holiday turkeys for ALL Scios employees!

Thank you, FDA!

P.S. Drug Rep Toys, for once didn't scoop us on this!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

'Round the Sphere: Pharma Giles' Lyrics and NRX's NOTES

Last week I challenged -- well, not exactly challenged; more like offered a prize -- to any pharma blogger who would rewrite the lyrics to "Puttin' On the Ritz" so that they were relevant to the pharmaceutical industry.

Pharma Giles was up to the challenge (read his lyrics here).

Giles suggests it would make for a "pretty funny (if gut-churning) video" and I agree. Anyone out there willing and able to give it a shot? Or at least find some still images to accompany the lyrics.

The feminine "tails" and top hat image shown here was used by Giles in his post.

Meanwhile, Rost at NRx was glimpsing the future of natural orifice transluminal endoscopic surgery (NOTES) in a provocative post entitled "Surgeons remove gallbladder through vagina." Go ahead and read it. You know you can't resist!

This is the image Rost included in his post.

Does anyone see a problem here?

What's the gall bladder doing way up there under this woman's breasts?

Not that I'm turned on by this medical graphic, but did the artist relocate the gall bladder just to bring in the outline of the breasts?

Inquiring minds want to know!

Friday, November 2, 2007

Mack Palsy-Walsy with Chase, Editor-in-Chief at MM&M

What happens when two editors get together at a fancy dress party with an open bar?

Smashed, that's what!

Here's James Chase, Editor-in-Chief at MM&M, and me whooping it up at the 2007 MM&M Awards after party last night at the Tavern on the Green in NYC.

I am sure James was smashed. I was merely inebriated.

That's James posing with me on the left.

I liked James right off the bat because he impressed me by being intimately familiar with my writings at Pharma Marketing Blog. He especially liked the post "Awards. What Are They Good For?".

As I said, awards are good for parties and the MM&M party is right up there with the best. It was very much like a very expensive wedding party!

Thanks James for having me as a guest.

[Read more about the MM&M Awards ceremony here, including who the winners were and what could have hapenned if I acted out my Borat moment.]

Thursday, November 1, 2007

I'm Puttin' on the Ritz Tonight!

A Gold Award goes to any blogger in the Pharma Blogosphere who can rewrite these lyrics to fit the gala black tie event I will be going to tonight!

Have you seen the well-to-do
Up and down park avenue
On that famous thoroughfare
With their noses in the air

High hats and narrow collars
White spats and lots of dollars
Spending every dime
For a wonderful time

Now, if you're blue
And you don't know where to go to
Why don't you go where fashion sits
Puttin on the ritz
Different types who wear a daycoat
Pants with stripes and cutaway coat
Perfect fits
Puttin on the ritz

Dressed up like a million dollar trooper
Trying hard to look like gary cooper

Come, lets mix where rockefellers
Walk with sticks or umbrellas
In their mitts
Puttin on the ritz

Tips his hat just like an english chappie
To a lady with a wealthy pappy
Very snappy

You'll declare its simply topping
To be there and hear them swapping
Smart tidbits
Puttin on the ritz

See "AbelsonTaylor and I are off to the 2007 MM&M Awards Gala Event!"