Wednesday, November 14, 2007

RLS Foundation (aka GSK?) Calls for Boycott of Consumer Reports Over Ad Spoof

Consumer Reports -- published by Consumer Union -- recently launched its "Antidote to TV Drug Ads" series that intends to be "an entertaining new online video series that will track and report on such ads." Needless to say, the videos are YouTube-like spoofs.

First up in the series is a spoof of GSK's Requip TV ad (here).

CR doesn't say anything about this ad that I and other bloggers have not already said a long time ago (see, for example, "Restless Brush Syndrome: Lessons for Requip Marketers" and "Restless Pharma Marketing").

"Extremely Sarcastic and Insulting Video"
However, CR does have a HUGE readership that I can only dream of! As a result, its attack on Requip drew the attention of the Restless Leg Syndrome Foundation, the supposedly grassroots patient advocacy group with suspicious monetary and corporate ties to GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), the marketer of Requip (see posts cited above).

The RLS Foundation issued this clarion call to its "members":
"We wanted to apprise everyone on our mailing list of some bad press for RLS. We want to encourage you to 'fight back'.

"A video on consumerreports.org promises 'relief from restless legs hype.' The RLS Foundation is taking a tough stand against this type of bad press for RLS.

"Click here to watch this extremely sarcastic and insulting video for yourself. Then, click here to read the RLS Foundation's response to this video.

"The RLS Foundation is calling for drastic measures to respond to this video. We aren't concerned that they are reporting on a drug. We are concerned that they are mocking a condition that so many people live with everyday. We encourage you to respond to this advertisement immediately. If you are a subscriber of Consumer Reports, we encourage you to cancel your subscription...."
I am not going to deconstruct the RLS Foundation's letter to Consumer Reports except to mention that it compares RLS to childhood asthma (eliciting images in our minds of beloved, helpless, suffering children) and suggests that the side effects are worth it considering that RLS can be a cause of suicide!

Mirapex Buzz Marketing Response
A comment I received to a previous post indicates that the Mirapex buzz marketers will have a field day with this:
John -

Thank you for your article! I suffer from RLS -- sometimes it's really quite horrible. Just trust me on that. Anyway, I'm not writing about RLS, but about how grateful I am to learn more about who's behind the RLS Foundation.

A story for you: I just received an e-mail from the RLS Foundation criticizing and ad from Consumer Reports. Here's an excerpt...

[see above]

So, I showed this to my wife -- who's much brighter than I am -- and she said, "Hmmm. I don't see anything wrong with the Consumer Reports ad. And, hey, y'know the RLS response doesn't sound like a non-profit's response -- I didn't think that non-profits went around attacking each other for protecting consumers. I wonder if we could find out if RLS Foundation has any corporate sponsors..."

So, I Googled 'rls foundation sponsors requip' and found your article. When I read it to my wife, she did a little celebratory jig. ;-)

We were both delighted to find that you'd done some research and were able to help us learn that there IS a connection b/t the RLS Foundation and the RLS drug makers.

What to do next, I don't know -- my Mirapex is a real life-saver -- but I was certainly glad to learn about the connection.
Sorry, anonymous, "my Mirapex is a real life-saver," gave you away. But, thanks for thinking of me and telling me about the RLS Foundation's email and letter. BTW, for the record, I think the Mirapex promotional campaign has flaws, but at least I can't accuse it of disease mongering.

17 comments:

  1. Anonymous3:33 PM

    The RLS Foundation was founded 15 years ago ... long before there were any drugs used to treat RLS. It was founded by individuals who had the condition.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Sure, sure. Where's the history? I can only find annual reports going back to 2001. The first press release issued by the Foundation was one day after Requip was approved for RLS marketing here in the US. Meanwhile, it was already on the EU market.

    GSK is perfectly capable of planning ahead during product research to create the infrastructure it needs to market full steam ahead after approval.

    The RLS Foundation may indeed have been formed by "patients" 15 years ago -- but you'll have to show me proof. If so, it seems have lain dormant until infused with funds from the industry.

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  3. Anonymous8:57 PM

    In her 1995 book "Sleep Thief" Virginia Wilson details the history of the RLS Foundation which was formed by Wilson and about 8 or 9 others. The articles of incorporation were completed in 1992.

    It's an interesting 6 page text narrative. But I suspect you only want press releases for proof.

    Here are two web sites from the wayback machine. These pages say they were created in 1995 and one says the RLS Foundation was founded in 1992.

    http://web.archive.org/web/19961114025246/http://www.rls.org/

    http://web.archive.org/web/19961114025334/www.rls.org/rlsf.htm

    ReplyDelete
  4. It is true, the RLS foundation was formed years ago by a patient, but I can't vouch for its finances not. Same with the National Sleep Foundation--it's almost a front for the sleeping pill companies.
    But John, I think you are on the wrong side of this issue: the issue should not be about RLS, but about DTC. RLS is real and I am proud to have helped GSK bring a drug to market. The college-level CU video is an insult to that process. My responseis here:
    http://www.revolutionhealth.com/blogs/stevepocetamd/restless-legs-syndrom-9204
    Thanks

    ReplyDelete
  5. Steve,

    Thanks for your comment.

    My intent here was not about whether or not RLS describes a real symptomology. But I hesitate to call it a "disease" or "medical condition."

    There are instances when drug companies take symptoms and then, with the help of physicians having a financial interest in legitimizing the symptoms as a true medical condition, recast those symptoms as a "real" medical problem. It's a win-win symbiosis between the industry and physicians. The latter get more patients that they can offer a treatment to and the former convert a loser product (in terms of sales) into a blockbuster.

    I have even heard product managers at industry conferences brag about doing this (not for RLS but for "overactive bladder").

    BTW, Requip was first approved for Parkinson's Disease (PD). Where are all the ads for Requip as a treatment for this condition? Oh, yeah. There are too few people suffering from this REAL medical condition to bother with a national DTC campaign that involves flooding the networks with TV ads, embedding stories in the press, heavily funding patient groups, and inventing simulators to give physicians vicarious thrills at medical conventions!

    Only if you can escalate demand for a drug like Pepsi escalates demand for a soft drink can the drug industry seem to make a profit these days.

    And don't think that creating demand where there was none to begin with would end if DTC were outlawed. As I have discussed in my blog many times, drug marketers have many other tools they can use to drive demand, although none so effective as DTC advertising.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Anonymous7:21 AM

    My husband is a physician. He had an entire lecture devoted to this disease. He believes it is VERY real. But that doesn't mean he prescribes drugs to everyone who walks in the door. It is the PHYSICIAN'S JOB to prescribe medications. It isn't like you see an ad and can go get this at K-Mart.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Anonymous7:30 AM

    Oh and the RLS Foundation received 501c(3) status in January of 1993. That's something that IS on record.

    ReplyDelete
  8. An FDA survey suggested that 57% of physicians prescribe a specific brand name when asked by the patient (as long as the patient demonstrates the need). See http://www.fda.gov/cder/ddmac/globalsummit2003/sld018.htm. I've even seen figures higher than that.

    That's about the same success rate I have when shopping for a specific item at K-mart! Of course, that may mean that I am a more discerning shopper than most. Nut, if I can't get what I want at K-mart, I can always go to Wal-mart!

    BTW, did you know that consumers sometimes treat physician visits the same they do visits to K-mart? If they can't get what they want at one physician, they'll try another. That's a strong incentive for physicians to comply with their patients' demands.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Anonymous7:56 AM

    As a physician, I find this insulting. Physicians are the "culprit" of this argument. The point is, a patient can't get a medication without a physician to give it TO them.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Hello! It's not all black and white! Did I say all physicians are "culprits?" And didn't you read the part about patients "shopping around" for compliant physicians? There are many "culprits" if you want to look at it that way.

    And, yes, some physicians are part of the problem. These physicians -- who I don't call culprits -- need to be more careful dispensing serious medications like Requip that have significant side effects.

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  11. Anonymous9:01 AM

    John, will you please give us your definition of "REAL medical condition" ?

    ReplyDelete
  12. That's the problem. There is no universally-accepted definition of what a real medical condition is.

    I would only say that in the case of RLS, I do not believe it rises to the level of "medical condition" just because the best the medical community can do is classify it as a "syndrome," a word that comes from the Greek "syn-" meaning together + "dramein" meaning to run = to run together, or go together. It leaves open cause and effect as in "are these symptoms really the result of some well-defined underlying physiological condition?"

    In so far as everyone may have experienced these symptoms at one time or another -- I know I have -- does not mean we all have a "real medical condition" that needs to be treated with a powerful drug, which is what the marketers want us to believe.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Anonymous10:55 AM

    Thanks for explaining your definition of "real medical condition".

    About "doctor shopping". Many with RLS have had to doctor shop. When I was in my fourth decade of RLS and having tried every home remedy I had heard of or could think up and all had failed to help, my life was in shambles from sleep deprivation. Doctors had no clue what to do about it. I finally found the RLS Foundation and took some of their literature to a doctor and finally got something that worked. It turned out to be a mixed blessing because of the side effects (an older, unadvertised PD medication .) Since 1999 I take Mirapex and it is wonderful for me.

    About powerful medications. Why would someone take a medication with no power?

    About that simulator. If all it does is tingle, it is totally NOT a RLS simulator.

    ReplyDelete
  14. MR. MACK, I'M GLAD YOU DO NOT SUFFER BAD ENOUGH TO MAKE MEDICAL CONDITION FOR YOU.

    HOWEVER, RLS IS A REAL MEDICAL CONDITION THAT REQUIRES THE AID OF MEIDCATIONS SO MANY PEOPLE. YOU ARE A LUCKY ONE, I AM ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE SCALE FROM YOU.

    WITHOUT THE RESEARCH, STUDIES, THE FOUNADTION'S HELP, I MIGHT NOT BE HERE TO REPLY TO YOUR POST. 18 HOURS OF EVERY DAY I LIVE IS TOTURED BY RLS.

    MISS BELL'S RESPONSE WAS NOT MAKING LIGHT OF ANY MEDICAL CONDITION, SHE WAS POINTING OUT THE SIMPLE FACT THAT THE NUMBERS RESPORTED WERE NOT CORRECT. NOT TO MENTION IN PART THAT YES IT'S IN OUR HEADS, NEUROLOGICALLY, NOT BECAUSE WE WANTED IT.

    IN MY FAMILY GENTICS RLS IS MEAN, AND ANY PHARM CONPANY WOULD HAVE TO GO BACK NUMEROUS GENERATIONS TO PLANT THE GENE IN MY BODY.

    YOUR PLAY IN LATIN ON THE TERM MEDICAL CONDITION MAKES ME WANT TO ASK, WERE YOU IN OR DID YOU WRITE MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING?

    GET EDUCATED ABOUT RLS AND THEN WE'LL TALK.

    SINCERELY,
    24/7/365 LEGS

    ReplyDelete
  15. Anonymous5:53 PM

    Maybe you should talk people who actually suffer from RLS. Many of us have had it since childhood. I've spent many more nights walking the house than sleeping because I could not sleep due to my RLS. Riding in the car for long periods and airplanes are killers. You meantion you doubt it would be bad enough to cause suicide. How would you feel if you have gone weeks with out more then a couple hours sleep, you might contimplate alternative to living also. If you talk to people who actually suffer from it you will find it also usually gets progressively worse as time goes on. If you are so hung up on the "syndrom" part of the name, I guess people who suffer from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome are not really sick and if medication comes along to help them they should shun it. I don't think I care who sponsors a site as long as there is useful information available. If you check the website you are referring to, you will find many people do not take Requip because of side affects. So as my grandfather used to say "walk in someone elses steps before making commments"

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  16. The truth is that RLS is disease mongering by the drug companies pure and simple. This is a manufactured disease which represents symptoms of magnesium deficiency which is quite common. Every single patient with so-called restless leg syndrome that I have seen has recovered promptly with inexpensive magnesium supplementation. Requip is a powerful Parkinson's drug with side effects such as compulsive gambling. This kind of misbehavior by the drug industry is a red flag indication of a broken medical system, and the dysfunctional government that allowed this to happen.

    To read more: Disease Mongering with Requip

    Jeffrey Dach MD
    my web site

    ReplyDelete
  17. Anonymous4:03 AM

    RLS is a real medical condition.....i wouldn't be up 4 in the morning writing this if it wasnt!

    ReplyDelete

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