Thursday, October 26, 2006

Allergan Ignores Guidelines, Wins Award Anyway

I spent all day yesterday at the "DTC in the New Era" conference organized by my colleagues at DTC Perspectives, Inc. One of the most valuable things I came away with was an AmbienCR goody bag that included a pen (with "stylus for PDA"), two logo-emblazoned file cabinet magnets, and a scratch pad (also with logo).

At the end of the day I attended the 2006 Perspectives On Excellence Awards Presentation and Dinner. The awards are affectionately called the POEs. POEs are sponsored exclusively by Parade Magazine, which according to Randy Siegel, Parade President & Publisher, "appreciates the value of reaching the public with informative messaging, especially when it comes to important developments in health and medicine. These companies and agencies deserve recognition for being leaders in their field. Congratulations."

It was fun trying to guess who the winners were before they were announced. But that's not what I want to talk about now ... maybe later today in another post.

One POE Award winner surprised me and a few others sitting at my table. The category was "DTC Company of the Year (sales under $5 billion per year)" and finalists included Allergan, medPointe, Merck/Schering-Plough, Sepracor, and Serono.

Sepracor (Lunesta) received the Gold Award, Allergan (Botox, Restasis) got the Silver and Merck/Schering-Plough (Zetia) received the Bronze.

Sepracor I can understand -- it only violated its agreement to abide by PhRMA's DTC Guidelines a couple of times (see, for example, "Sepracor Sneaks In Lunesta Reminder Ad"), and since the PhRMA Office of Accountability did not name the violators (see "PhRMA's OOA Issues First Report"), the POE judges could claim they had no knowledge of any violation by Sepracor.

No such defense, however, is possible for the Silver Award given to Allergan, which has not even signed on to PhRMA's Guidelines (see, for example, "PhRMA Intern vs. BOTOX!"). I, for one, think it is outrageous that they received such recognition.

[BTW, no one from Allergan or its ad agency stood up to claim the award. Perhaps they were not there or perhaps they were afraid of being booed -- I swear, I would have done it! Maybe... probably not.]

I don't know what criteria POE judges used to come up with the winners. Obviously, adherence to PhRMA DTC Guidelines was not on the list. In my view, any company that hasn't agreed to the Guidelines should not even be a contender, let alone receive an award!

DTC Magazine and Parade -- as well as other DTC advocates -- need to get in synch with the industry on DTC. DTC is under attack. The best defensive tactic the industry has come up with is PhRMA's voluntary Guidelines. DTC advocates do the industry a disservice by not supporting the PhRMA guidelines in DEED as well as in word.

By rewarding Allergan at a prestigious event (sure to be followed by press releases all around), DTC Perspectives and Parade are sending the wrong message -- namely, you can shun the industry's voluntary DTC guidelines and be rewarded by your peers for doing it!

What do you think?


Does Allergan Deserve an Award?
Yes
No

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