Monday, June 30, 2008

My London Trip

Did you miss me when I was away in London? Well, I missed you!

Anyway, here are a few photos. First, here I am riding the "London Eye." No, not the beefy guy with tattoos on his arm! The other beefy guy, sitting down and staring directly into the camera. Those other dodos in the gondola with me didn't have a clue where the camera was located!

I had a nice visit with the folks at eyeforpharma, including Jessica Evans and Paul Simms shown in the photo below. This was taken on eyeforpharma's "roof garden." In the background is the "Gerken" building, famous for its pickles!

Speaking of food, right around the corner from eyeforpharma's headquarters was the S&M Cafe, which is famous for their "Sausage and Mash" shown below. I should have ordered the 3-sausage platter! You will notice that I know what I am doing -- you have to stir the "mushy peas" into the "mash" or else you risk being identified as a tourist! Of course, whipping out my camera and taking a flash photo of my lunch didn't help,

I watched the football game between Italy and Spain with these Italians at the "Hog in the Pond" pub. Too bad the game was so boring that I didn't stay around to the end to see the faces of these guys after Italy lost!

I stayed at the Cumberland Hotel shown below just behind the Marble Arch off of Oxford Street.

The lobby was decorated in a nouvelle riche style, by which I mean it was festooned with weird sculptures, neon floor lighting, and projected video images of businessmen and women flipping through the air in slow mo.

Too bad this 4-star hotel only came with one tiny round bar of soap, no washcloth, and no movie channel! At $400 per night, however, it was a bargain considering its location.

All in all, I had a great time!

Friday, June 27, 2008

'Round the Sphere: Pharma TV DTC Ads Offensive to Women?

While I was away in London this week, Richard Myer over at World of DTC Marketing sent me a copy of an email message he received from a reader of his blog who complained the that recent Evista TV ad, which shows menopausal women standing around wearing only towels, was "extremely offensive:"

I have been searching for who I should contact about the ad for Evista. I have seen it several times and want to say it is a very offensive ad. There are many women who have only a sheet wrapped around them.

This ad is very unbecoming and unnecessary to advertise medication. It once again adds to the lack of respect that the media has for women. Many of us are working for the dignity of women and ads such as this one destroys our efforts.
You can read Rich's take on this in the recent post entitled "Evista Ad Offensive?" I leave it up to you if the ad really is offensive to women.

No sooner than I was back home than I saw an unbranded fibromyalgia "disease awareness" ad by Pfizer. I definitely found this one disturbing in that it presented images of a bruised woman that looked very much like the battered woman syndrome posters and ads I have seen. See my post over at Pharma Marketing Blog entitled "Battered Woman Imagery in Pfizer's New Fibromyalgia Ad." Here's what I said about this ad:
"The whole thing smacked of desperation on Pfizer's part to sell more drugs and represents DTC advertising sinking to a new low in exploiting women's fears!"
Are these ads part and parcel of how pharma marketers view women or wish to appeal to their fears? I have noted previously that women were not portrayed very favorably in ads -- see "Women Need More Love, Less Drugs." Come to think of it, the ad I talk about in that post is another Pfizer ad -- a branded Lyrica ad!

Friday, June 20, 2008

I Invite "Insider" to Meet Up with Me in London Next Week

I'll be in London next week where I will be giving the keynote presentation at the Measuring Marketing ROI in Pharma conference being held at the Meridien on Piccadilly Street.

While there, I plan to meet up with a few people at various places around London -- see the Google Map I created to see the places I plan to visit.

Hey, Insider (aka Jack Friday, PharmaGossip Guy)! How about meeting me at the Itsu Japenese Restaurant near Piccadilly Circus (103-109 Wardour St)? I hear that's quite a famous place for international liaisons!

Monday, June 2, 2008

DTC Blogspectives: Another Pharma Meta Blog

Back in February, 2007, when I started Pharma BlogosphereTM -- a blog about blogging about the pharmaceutical industry -- it was the first ever "pharma meta blog." At the time, several bloggers questioned the wisdom of a blog about blogs. Today, however, there are at least 3 "blogs" in this category: this blog, Christine Truelove's "Pharma Blogs: Week in Review", and now Bob Ehrlich's Blog on Blogs, "DTC Blogspectives."

You may know Bob from such publications as DTC Perspectives magazine and his other blog, DTC-In-Perspective.

While the focus of Pharma Blogosphere blog is more about behind the scenes gossip and critique of bloggers in this space, the other two blogs summarize the content of pharma blogs. Truelove claims the her blog "monitors blogs so you don't have to..." (to which I have said "Truelove, Explain This Please!"). Ehrlich, on the other hand, claims his blog "is not a blog recap per se, but my editorial spin, comment, rebuttal or agreement with those bloggers."

Which seems to mean that Ehrlich will now compete with me! But only within the DTC space. Now that DTC spending is on the wane -- having DECREASED by about 5% in 2007 (see "Professional Advertising Doing Well. DTC? Not So Much!") -- Ehrlich's focus must be viewed as a niche category.

As far as I can tell, DTC Blogspectives does not yet have a Web home, but is only delivered by e-mail. So, to introduce you to this new "blog," I reproduce it in its entirety below (Bob does not like to be quoted out of context):

Welcome to our first issue of Blogspectives. Bi-weekly I will comment on health blogs that discuss pharmaceutical marketing, public policy, and consumer trends and behavior. This is not a blog recap per se, but my editorial spin, comment, rebuttal or agreement with those bloggers.

I scan what I believe are relevant blogs to the DTC Perspectives audience. There are hundreds of health blogs but about 10-20 that specifically cover our industry. I plan to provide Blogspectives twice a month for now and perhaps weekly in the future.

What better way to start a blog on blogs than to report that John Mack of the Pharma Marketing Blog (5/27) wonders whether the little guy blogger can compete with corporate sponsored blogs such as Pharmalot and the Wall Street Journal . He believes that their resources allow them to report more scoops first. While that is true, the independent blogger can comment on news stories and create new perspectives about an event or issue. I do not usually discover news and see myself as adding depth to a news story. I have no doubt the independent health blogger is still needed.

In recapping the House hearings of May 9, Pharmaceutical Executive's Patri ck Clinton comments the hearings were inconclusive as expected. He believes the real issue is whether DTC causes inappropriate prescribing which he believes has not been answered yet. He also believes the industry claims that DTC educates in a balanced way is “mostly absurd.” I agree with Mr. Clinton. DTC for specific brands is meant to sell product as evidenced by management demanding positive ROI. It is not educational in its mission although PhRMA uses that term in its statements defending DTC. Branded ads may educate but that is not why they fund DTC. It is to sell more product. Nothing wrong with that, except it sounds better to say it is educational. I remember former Pfizer executive Pat Kelly wanting to replace the term DTC with HIFC, (health information for consumers), because of the negative associations with the DTC. It never caught on because it is what it is. DTC is advertising that contains health information.

On the same subject, Merrill Goozner of Gooz News (5/12) references the hearings in asking who stopped the FDA from pulling Procrit ads claiming reduced fatigue from chemotherapy, a non FDA approved claim. He mentions Dan Troy, FDA counsel at the time, and now working for a firm representing J&J, Procrit's maker. Goozner wrote the the Industry critical book “The $800 Million Pill,” calling into question the drug industry cited cost of R&D. Troy definitely was a champion of limiting FDA power while there but I believe he felt the limits were based on not violating commercial free speech and not because he was in the pocket of the drug industry.

Alison Bass, author of a new book “Side Effects,” the critical story of Paxil and GlaxoSmithKline, covered the House hearing in her 5/11 blog . Her take is that it is unlikely that new regulation will come out of the hearing. Her blog reports mostly on Professor Ruth Day's negative testimony that side effects are presented in DTC to minimize comprehension. Ms. Bass ends with her bleak assessment “it looks like American consumers are going to continue to be distracted” citing Day's example of Nasonex and the flapping wings of its bee icon during the side effects reading.

CNBC's blogger Mike Huckman (5/12) was perplexed by the new bed sheet Evista commercial that promotes reducing the risk of breast cancer as well as the old indication for Osteoporosis. He said “there was something about it that just doesn't sit right.” He says the commercial was unsettling because of how many women looked like they were on Botox. I admit it is an unusual execution but as I said in my column on May 23 , I liked it for its stopping power and clear message. Mr. Huckman's blog had a survey and 54% of the 507 respondents said the ad is fine, while 36% said it was kind of weird. Only Lilly will know for sure if the ad works but my guess is it will, weird or not.

Maggie Mahar, in her Healthbeat Blog (5/21 takes on DTC for medical devices. Ms. Mahar, author of an excellent book on health care policy called “Money Driven Medicine,” feels J&J's DTC for the Cypher stent can cause significant friction between surgeons and patients. Here, she says, DTC goes beyond pill ads because use of a particular medical device requires specialized knowledge. She also says the reason for DTC may be because the Cypher stent has a higher rate of problems and DTC demand creation can help put pressure on surgeons to use it. I doubt any surgeon will use the stent just because a patient mentions it because it is a more serious decision versus a pill choice. I also doubt a patient would push a surgeon on a brand of medical device, because this is not a simple choice of prescribing a consumer requested anti-histamine or proton pump inhibitor.

In the Wall Street Journal (5/28) blog by Scott Hensley , he reports that a review of media stories on health yields unsatisfactory results. The study, done by , shows media stories fail to do a good job discussing cost, evidence of efficacy, alternative treatments, and risks and benefit trade-offs. They analyzed 500 stories and made their subjective assessment. While I did not examine 500 stories, it seems to me that consumers get a lot of coverage on high drug costs and risks of their prescriptions. The reviewers of the stories are doctors, public health experts and a professor of journalism.

On , Jane Sarasohn-Kahn congratulates Viagra on its 10 th anniversary. She points out that Viagra “reshaped pharmaceutical marketing. The company used direct-to-consumer advertising to great effect.” I do not agree that Viagra reshaped marketing. It received so much free publicity that consumer awareness was achieved without a lot of DTC spending. It did later use DTC to help add new users and probably had positive ROI. Like many observers of DTC, Ms. Sarasohn-Kahn overstates its impact. Viagra was a successful drug before any DTC money was spent. In fact so was Lipitor, also commonly quoted as a drug built by DTC.