Friday, December 28, 2007

Giuliani's OxyContin (and PhRMA) Money

A new article in today's New York Times -- "Under Attack, Drug Maker Turned to Giuliani for Help" rehashes an old story about how presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani earned millions of dollars defending Purdue Pharma against charges of illegal promotion of its pain drug, OxyContin, the abuse of which DEA claims has killed hundreds of people -- mostly teenagers (who, incidentally, cannot vote for or against Mr. Giuliani should he win the Republican nomination for president).

I've written several posts to Pharma Marketing Blog about this and other questionable ties that Giuliani has had with the pharmaceutical industry that have helped him amass a personal fortune of 30 million dollars.

See for example:

Giuliani, OxyContin, Big Pharma, and Terrorism
Posted: May 11, 2007
My mother-in-law would freak if she read Ed Silverman's Pharmalot Blog piece "OxyContin And...Our Next President?" connecting the OxyContin/Purdue Pharma criminals to presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani, who some people equate with The Saviour or at least with the One Who Can Do No Wrong.

What's the connection? You'll have to read Ed's piece for the details. [Or read the NY Times article mentioned above.]

This is not the first time, however, that Giuliani has been connected with questionable drug industry practices.
Terror Politics vs Drug Importation
Posted: May 14, 2005
PhRMA commissioned Guiliani Partners to produce a report that called for an immediate moratorium on drug importation legislation (see PhRMA press release: "Giuliani Report Calls for Immediate Moratorium On Drug Importation Legislation."

Credible Sources According to Giuliani, "opening U.S. borders to prescription drugs could provide an unfortunate opportunity for terrorists. ?Several credible sources have identified links between counterfeit goods, including pharmaceuticals, and organized criminals and terrorist groups,"? he said. ?"It is not difficult to imagine a scenario in which terrorist groups could use this system to either finance operations or, worse, as a vehicle of attack.?"

These "credible sources" may be of the same ilk that gave us Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.

Let's not try to win every policy argument by bringing terrorism into the equation. I think it undermines our vigilance against real terror threats.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Who Reads Pharma Marketing Blog?

I've been running a survey of readers of this blog for a while (see Pharma Marketing Blog Reader Survey to take the survey). Thank you if you have already taken the survey.

This is a preliminary summary of the survey results based on nearly 300 responses received to date.

Reader Affiliation
The target audience for this blog is the same as for Pharma Marketing News: marketing professionals working within the pharmaceutical industry and companies that provide products and services for the pharmaceutical industry. I also hope that health care professionals (HCPs), consumers, and patients find this blog useful. By the looks of the following pie chart, I'd say that I have hit my target!

The largest group of readers (44%) are employed by a pharmaceutical, biotech, or medical device company. Another 31% work for companies that service the industry. This includes marketing, advertising, and PR agencies, consultants, and vendors offering products and services to the drug industry.

Not only am I happy that I am reaching my intended audience, I am happy that advertisers can place their ads in this blog and also reach this audience. Of course the ads are clearly labeled as "Advertisements."

Support for Industry
A good majority (65%) of my readers are somewhat or very supportive of the pharmaceutical industry in general, whereas only 19% are somewhat or very unsupportive (see chart below).

This is good also -- I consider myself as "somewhat supportive" of the industry, which means I want the industry to succeed, not fail and to do the "right thing" when it comes to marketing.

It's interesting to note that although 84% of industry respondents in my survey consider themselves supportive of the industry, a good percentage (24%) feel as I do -- their support may be conditional (ie, they "somewhat support" the industry)!

The survey also asks other questions like what topics readers would like to read more about on this blog and what other blogs they read on a regular basis. I will give a report on those questions at a later time.

In the meantime,


Monday, December 17, 2007

Is It Time to End Industry Sponsored CME?

Last year, the pharmaceutical industry provided $1.19 billion to sponsor physician continuing medical education (CME) programs in the US ($1.44 billion if you include advertising and exhibits at CME events). See "Online CME Growth is Bad News for Pharma Marketers" for the data.

In the essay "Wither CME?", John Mack (editor of Pharma Marketing News) asked these questions: Why should pharma contribute so much for CME? Doesn’t that naturally lead to biased content? Shouldn’t there be a ban on commercially-funded accredited CME? Why can’t physicians pay for their CME like many other professionals do?

This survey attempts to get some answers to these questions from the Pharma Marketing Network community.

Please take 2 minutes to answer this ONLINE SURVEY relating to industry sponsorship of FREE, ACCME accredited continuing medical education (CME) for physicians.

Results of this survey will be used to inform an ongoing Pharma Marketing Roundtable discussion, which you may join. This discussion and survey results will be summarized in an issue of Pharma Marketing News.

Your comments are confidential (anonymous) unless you specifically provide your contact information at the end of the survey and allow us to attribute comments to you personally.

Mistletoe Viagra Dispenser: #1 Office Party Favor!

It's that time of year when mistletoe is hung at office Christmas parties, during which any woman employee may be caught off-guard -- or maybe not! -- and be kissed by an office mate.

But will that mate be able to follow-through later with sex -- consensually of course -- in an empty office or after the party in the parking lot or motel bedroom?

Did you know that as many as 60% of men lucky enough to get the mistletoe "free ride" will be unable to achieve an erection later, when the time is right, due to a little-known but REAL medical condition?

Of course, we are talking about Office Party Sexual Encounter Xeropenileia (OP-SEX). Note: "Xeropenileia" literally means "abnormal dryness of the penis" (see "List of unusual words beginning with X").

OP-SEX should NOT be confused with simple ED (erectile dysfunction), which affects fewer men. OP-SEX is much more prevalent due to several factors, including excessive alcohol consumption and feelings of guilt, which are sometimes, but not always, mitigated by the alcohol.

Don't let OP-SEX ruin YOUR office party!

Get this year's NUMBER ONE office party favor: MacJon Industries' patent-pending Mistletoe Erection DispenserTM (aka "MED") -- "Every erection begins with a kiss!SM"

With MED you'll be certain that your party goers will have a satisfying mistletoe experience and NOT be stymied by OP-SEX.

The Viagra dispenser model is shown above. Cialis and Levitra versions are also available. You can also order the "Canadian" version, which accepts pills ordered from online Canadian pharmacies (will not work with pills originating south of the border).

Clap, Clap, Dispense, Dispense
MED is simple to use! Merely clap your hands while directly under the mistletoe MED dispenser and a pill will be dispensed as shown. Either the woman or the man can initiate the clap, but we recommend that the woman does it.

The great thing about it is that everyone else at the party will think the woman is really enjoying the kiss and cannot refrain from applauding the guy! On the other hand, if she does NOT clap, no one will be the wiser (MED's dispenser is discreetly camouflaged so only those in the know will be the wiser).

And guys, if and when the woman claps, you know you are in line for the full monty! Don't mess it up by saying something like: "Viagra! I don't need that!" Remember, we are not talking about ED but about OP-SEX, which can strike any man in a similar situation!

MEDs ARE SERIOUS PRODUCTS and should not to be abused as simple "office party gags!"

To order your MED today, simply send $25 plus $9.95 (S&H) to:

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222 LeFraud Ave
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Please make checks out to "cash."

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Invite John Mack to your Christmas office party and he will bring ONE COMPLIMENTARY MED (you supply the Viagra). For more information about this offer, see "Last Chance to Invite Me to Your Holiday Office Party!"

Please read this disclaimer carefully.

Although the information and recommendations are presented in good faith and believed to be correct, MacJohn Industries makes no representations or warranties as to the completeness or accuracy of the information.

Furthermore, MacJon Industries' products -- including, but not limited to, the Mistletoe Erection Dispenser (aka, "MED") line of products -- are supplied upon the condition that the persons receiving same will make their own determination as to its suitability for their purposes prior to use. In no event will MacJon Industries be responsible for damages of any nature whatsoever resulting from the use of or reliance upon information from this site or the products to which the information refers.

MacJon Industries does not warrant the accuracy or timeliness of the materials on this site and has no liability for any errors or omissions in the materials.


The actual word mistel means dung (not actually a word I usually connect with smooching.) Though the plant causes diarrhea if eaten, the reason its name is derived from excrement is because birds eat the berries and defecate the seeds. (Uh, are you getting a warm snuggly feeling? Cause I’m still not.)

But there is more. Because of the resemblance of the sticky white berry juice to certain... er... excretions on the part of males, the plant is associated with fertility and is considered an aphrodisiac. Thus, the tradition of passion under the plant which leads to luck in relationships.

Most people are unaware that the magic only works if the man plucks one berry off for every kiss he exchanges with a woman. When all the berries are gone, so is the plant’s potency.

I gather the man kisses the woman, crushes the berry, and winks as if to say, "Hey baby, want to see more of this stuff." And the woman is so overcome by his virility and suavity that she succumbs to more than his lips. Then they have such great uh… excretions that their partnership is blessed.
Source: "Mistletoe: A Sexy Parasite?"

Friday, December 14, 2007

Mevacor - STRIKE THREE! Yer Outta Here!

Strike three, ball four, OTC Mevacor'll tie the score
Yer blind, FDA,
Yer blind, FDA,
Ya mus' be out-a yer mind, FDA!

Strike three
Ball four
OTC Mevacor'll tie the score
Fly ball
Double play
Lipitor wins again today

Those damn Advisors
Why can't we beat 'em?
Pravachol's safe, Lipitor's put, Crestor's safe, Crestor's put, Mevacor's safe, Mevacor's out

Yer blind, FDA,
Yer blind, FDA, you must be out of yer mind, FDA

[sung to the tune "Six Months Out of Every Year"; Damn Yankees]

Read to back story here.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Lunesta's Ad Spending Spree and Other DTC Oddities

No matter that my colleague Rich Meyer over at World of DTC Marketing Blog thinks that the trade publication DTC Perspectives is worthless...

And no matter what my differences in opinion are with Bob Ehrlich, the CEO of that organization...

I still look forward to that magazine for useful insight and data that I can use to lambast the excesses of pharmaceutical marketers.

The December 2007 issue, which I just got in the mail, is a treasure trove of stuff I can comment on, starting with the "Top 15 Brands" DTC ad spend for the first half of 2007 (H1 2007).

I've taken the data -- originally compiled by Nielsen Monitor-Plus -- to create the following chart (click it to enlarge):

These 15 brands represent exactly 50% of the total DTC ad spending of $2.54 Billion in the first half of 2007 (this does not include Internet ads or search, which is insignificant anyway -- see below for that discussion).

Remarkably, Lunesta spent 71% MORE than its nearest competitors (Ambien CR and Rozerem). Another way to look at the Lunesta DTC ad spend is: $1 MILLION PER DAY (including Sundays)! In fact, ad spending on Lunesta represents 7% of the total spent on DTC advertising by ALL Rx brands.

Pharma Ad Spending Increases While Other Industries Cut Back
According to Nielsen Monitor-Plus, pharma ad spending increased 7% in H1 2007 compared to H1 2006. (Considering the above analysis, that increase could be due to a single drug -- Lunesta!)

Other industries, including automotive, restaurants, and department stores, decreased their ad spending in H1 2007 compared to H1 2006.

What About Internet Spending?
While promotion to physicians may be shifting to the Internet (see story here), in terms of measured media spending -- which is what Nielsen measures -- pharma spending on Internet advertising represents only 1% of the total ad spend (see pie chart below). Even if you were to add in search advertising, the pharma Internet sliver of the ad spend pie would hardly increase.

NOTE: online advertising expenditures account for CPM-based image-based advertising. All reported estimated expenditures and impressions do not account for the following placement types: text only, paid fee services, performance-based campaigns, compound ads, sponsorships, barters, in-stream ("pre-rolls") players, messenger applications, partnership advertising, promotions and email campaigns. AdRelevance currently does not report estimated spending for paid search advertising.
The good news? Pharma Internet spending increased almost 9% in H1 2007 compared to H1 2006. Compare that to a 20% increase in National Magazine ad spending and 5% increase in TV ad spending.

Influence of Critters
Other data presented in DTC Perspectives showed the 5 "most recalled new prescription drug ads." The winners were Lunesta with the highest recall (better be for $180 million!) followed by Lunesta (2 different ads, each one includes the moth), followed by Zyrtec followed by Nasonex and Rozerem.

The editors point out that three of the five most-recalled ads in 2006-7 are closely connected with some type of "icon," by which they mean bee, moth, and Abe Lincoln/beaver. If the current DTC Critter strike (see story here) lasts much longer, these brands may not be so easily recalled in H1 2008!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Lilly, Sweden, Bribes and Conspiracy Theories

Several weeks ago I received an email from John Virapen who had this to say:
My name is John Virapen. I am now retired, after working more than 30 years in the pharma industry internationally. I have worked at executive level for some major companies such as Eli Lilly, and Novo Nordisk.

My career started in Sweden where I was Managing Director for Eli Lilly Sweden AB. I now live in Germany. Last year I published a fictional novel ("Side Effects: Death"; written in German) about corruption in the pharma industry, which created some debate.

I was then urged by the public to tell the true story. I have now written this book
as my memoirs primarily outlining the criminal activities I was involved in during my active years.

The Big Fish here is Eli Lilly.

A few months ago I was invited by Andy Vickery, a prominent US attorney, as a fact witness in an ongoing case regarding Prozac. I happen to have "damning evidence" exposing Eli Lilly bribing the regulatory board in Sweden to attain marketing approval for Prozac.
I thought: whistleblower, Sweden -- Peter Rost! No, John Virapen, who wrote his book under the pseudonym of John Rengen, is NOT Peter Rost. But I figured Peter would know who this guy was, but when I asked Peter, he had no clue.

Recently, I have done some searching on the Internet about Virapen and Andy Vickery and have come up with a few more pieces of the puzzle. First, here's Virapen's video on YouTube:

I learned that Virapen tried to sue Eli Lilly for wrongful dismissal based on his race:

This appeal stems from a suit alleging Per Curiam employment discrimination in violation of federal statutes and local law. The principal plaintiff, John Virapen, who was born in British Guyana and is of Indian descent, alleges that his employer, Eli Lilly S.A., a pharmaceutical firm, discharged him from an executive position because of his skin color, race, and national origin. The district court conducted a four-day bench trial concerning Virapen's allegations. The court thereafter wrote a meticulously reasoned opinion in which it concluded that Virapen had failed to prove his case.
Recall that dozens of current and former workers at Eli Lilly and Co. are stepping forward to accuse the Indianapolis drug maker of racial discrimination, adding heft to an ongoing lawsuit that paints the company as hostile to black employees (see "Lily-White Lilly. Homophobic and Sexist Too?").

Virapen may also have something in common with Tom Cruise: a connection with Scientology's Commission for violations of human rights against psychiatry (see this entry in Wikipedia). I can't say that Virapen is a shill for Scientology, but he definitely thinks the side effects of Prozac are deadly.

Trial lawyer Andy Vickery, for whom Virapen may be employed as an expert witness, has been described as "Eli Lilly and Co.'s legal nightmare: an outspoken, Yale-educated Texas trial lawyer . . . who has brought new focus and heightened publicity to Prozac litigation." (Jeff Swiatek, Indianapolis Star; 4/24/2000).

Recently, Virapen called to tell me that the story about his "damning evidence" against Lilly and the bribery of Swedish regulators "broke" in the Swedish press on page one of a major newspaper there.

With all this litigation involving Lilly and Prozac, I was amused to find out that Lilly is sponsoring a program to help physicians deal with their own litigation problems (see this post to The Carlat Psyhiatry Blog).

There's also a connection here with the American Psychological Association (APA), which received "at least $1.3 million in 2007 (so far) for industry-supported symposia and fellowships" (see "From Embarrassment to Scandal: Lilly + APA + The Psychiatrist's Program + Lots and Lots of Money"). Funny that the APA recently published a report that recommended that its 148,000 members "turn their nose up at pharma funds; limit the role industry plays at professional conferences, meetings and CME sessions; and adopt strict guidelines on conflict-of-interest disclosure" (see "APA Report Rips Pharma a New One!").

I wasn't sure what to do about John Virapen, who I thought was a bit outside the box with the claims he was making. But after several follow-up phone calls from him plus all of the above smoke that may reveal some fire in this story, I decided to invite him as a guest on my Pharma Marketing Talk podcast show on 20 December 2007:

Side Effects: Death
A Former Lilly Insider Blows the Whistle on Criminal Activity in Sweden

A conversation with John Virapen, an ex-Eli-Lilly-executive and author of the book "Side Effect: Death" (published in Sweden and Germany)...More info here...

Airs live, Thursday, 20 December 2007, 10 AM Eastern US time

Personal communication from John Virapen:

Dear John,

I cant seem to get my comments posted the normal way on your blog, but here they are, perhaps you can post them for me.

1. Anonymous says he worked for lilly 5 years but I wonder if its Eli Lilly he means. Bad judgement calls seem to be routine with several major pharma companies. Before making assumptions why dont you contact the Swedish Daily news ( Dagens Nyheter) who can verify my story. I can assure I am not a disgruntled employee. I am just publishing my memoirs of 35 years working in the international pharma industry. By the way the book is a fact book. I am not hiding behind fiction.

2. I was not employed by Att. Vickery to testify, I offered freely at no charge what so ever.

3. I am in no way connected to scientology or any other organisation for that matter.

4. Finally to those of you who suggest that I am pursuing financial gain please tell me how to do it. You might be aware that it does cost to write and publish a book. However, if this is a concern then I suggest, someone sponser the book and then donate the proceeds to victims who suffered at the hands of the pharma industry.

You can contact me at virapen@gmail .com

see you thursday.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

APA Report Rips Pharma a New One!

A task force of the American Psychological Association (APA) recently published a report that listed more than half a dozen ways the pharmaceutical industry exerts "enormous financial and political influence" that enables it to "assume a significant role in directing medical treatment, clinical research, and physician education" (see "Corporate Funding and Conflicts of Interest - A Primer for Psychologists").

The report also recommended that its 148,000 members "turn their nose up at pharma funds; limit the role industry plays at professional conferences, meetings and CME sessions; and adopt strict guidelines on conflict-of-interest disclosure" (see "Psychologists Urged To Upgrade Ethics Rules").

According to the APA, the drug industry exert enormous financial and political influence over most aspects of the US health care, including nonprofit patient groups, physicians, professional and academic institutions, the U.S. Congress, and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

APA points out that the two largest associations representing the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries are headed by former congressmen who previously chaired committees relevant to those interests.

We all know Billy Tauzin, president and CEO of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, from the exploits of PhRMA Intern as chronicled in this blog (see examples here).

U.S. Representative James Greenwood left his position as chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigation to become the president and CEO of the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) in 2005. At the time, I remember Greenwood citing the need to send his two daughters to college as a reason why he abruptly switched to the dark side.

With two former congressmen heading up their lobbying groups, is it any wonder that the pharmaceutical industry has the largest lobbying force of any industry, as claimed by APA?

"The pharmaceutical and health products industry spent $612 million on lobbying from 1998 to 2005," says the APA report, "working on more than 1,400 congressional bills."

According to the APA, "pharmaceutical industry money is so crucial to the funding of university medical centers that no threats or offers need to be made for a company to exert its influence."

OK, that's NOT strictly true. Threats and offers ARE made. Recall the story of Dr. Buse who was threatened by GSK (see "Dr. Buse Under GSK's Thumb! How Pharma Uses CME Funding as a Weapon").

The APA report does not neglect to mention the marketing: "In 2001, the pharmaceutical industry spent over $19 billion on marketing. It has been estimated that $35 billion was spent that year on 'marketing masquerading as education' and 'marketing masquerading as research,' costs that were then passed on to the public via higher retail prices for the medicines they purchased."

While I think the drug industry wastes a lot of money on marketing and does masquerade some marketing activities as education, I don't buy the argument that this raises the retail price of medicines. What it does is take money away from other areas where it should be invested -- like more clinical research. That is, if pharma were not able to spend so much $ on marketing, it would either plow that money into research or give it back to investors as dividends. It certainly would NOT lower retail prices. Who ever heard of any company ever doing that? -- except WallMart, which denies medical insurance to many of its workers.

Pharma Presence at APA Annual Meeting Led to Report
What caused the APA to set up its Task Force on External Funding that issued this report? It was the industry itself, of course.

Philip Zimbardo, former president of the APA, was appalled by the extravagant exhibits sponsored by pharmaceutical companies at the 2002 annual APA convention.

[On the left is one small example of how drug companies try to influence physicians at conventions.]

Philip Zimbardo observed the following at the 2002 American Psychiatric Association convention:
Dozens of huge exhibits, many occupying at least 250 square feet in area, most of which at least 20 feet tall, filled the center of the convention arena, on separate "islands" (stand-alone exhibit areas). In addition to their sheer bulk, many displays featured the name of the primary drug being promoted more prominently than they did the name of the pharmaceutical company.

Moreover, they were each staffed by large sales forces (as many as 15 for any one exhibit) wearing colorful logo shirts or uniforms. [What? No scantily-clad female models? I bet there were at least some good-looking women at the booths, even if they were dressed in pancreas costumes!]

In addition to providing information to attendees, the sales representatives were there to give away a variety of commercial gifts, administer unvalidated tests, and engage in other promotional activities. [Well, duh! These are commercial exhibits.]

These large booths were also filled with an assortment of unusual features to attract attendees, such as Zen gardens (10 feet long), aquaria, relaxing music listening areas, mazelike tunnels in which audio and video presentations simulated the psychotic experience, a music shack where attendees had their photo taken while playing a musical instrument that was made into the cover of a gift blues music CD for them [Wow! Way cool!], large sculptures, and more.

These exhibits were so big and so complicated that each required three or four days to assemble and several days more to disassemble. One exhibit booth alone cost more than $450,000 to create, according to the design coordinator -- and it was to be used only at one convention of the American Psychiatric Association. [Think how much MORE could have been spent if the sponsor didn't waste so much money on DTC advertising!]

A reporter covering the event for The Washington Post also described the scene: "In one part of the convention hall, companies erected 20-foot-high monuments to their medicines and handed out promotional materials, candies and gifts."

In a further illustration of the industry's influence on the convention, the reporter noted, "And in several dozen symposiums during the weeklong meeting, companies paid the [American Psychiatric Association] about $50,000 per session to control which scientists and papers were presented and to shape the presentations."

Monday, December 10, 2007

DTC Critters to Strike - Cite New Media Residuals as Issue

NEW YORK, New York (PMB) -- The Critters that appear in many direct-to-consumer (DTC) drug ads will go on strike early Tuesday after their negotiating team recommended a walkout over royalties that could immediately pinch primetime news shows that depend on the ads for revenue.

The DTC Critters Guild of America (DTC-CGA) board voted unanimously to strike as of 12:01 a.m. Monday (3:01 a.m. ET), officials said.

The walkout will be the first in 10 years since the FDA loosened DTC regulations.

Mr. Mucinex, the Critter star of the Mucinex anti-phlegm ads, said a strike is all but inevitable.

"We've never been more united and we are willing to deal -- and our decision-makers are all over the table, under the table, wherever" said Mucinex.

"Pharma company decision-makers and their ad producers are not at the table and that tells you pretty much all you need to know about how the companies are pushing this."

The news of a possible strike is not unexpected, said a representative of the Pharmaceutical Advertising Board for Leadership by United Manufacturers (PABLUM), which represents about 90% of DTC advertisers.

"By the DTC-CGA leadership's disgusting, slimy actions at the bargaining table, we are not surprised by tonight's recommendation," the PABLUM spokesperson said in a statement on the PABLUM Web site ( "We are ready to meet and are prepared to close this contract this weekend. But we'd rather not meet with Mr. 'Phlegm' or that stinging bee critter!"

The labor impasse is over royalties from use of DTC in alternative media such as blogs, podcasts, web boards, YouTube -- all the various places their works are now distributed, including Internet downloads.

"The future of DTC on TV is not going to look like what it's been for the last 30 years," said Beaver, who is the well-known Critter in Rozerem sleep aid DTC ads.

Beaver is shown here is a new online DTC ad. Under his current contract with Takeda, Beaver is paid a flat rate and does not benefit from increased visitors this ad brings to the Web site or royalties based on the number of clickthroughs.
"So, you know it's not just for us who are currently working," says Beaver, "but writers down the line, that we make sure that we get a... piece of the pie."

One of those critters who may be coming "down the line" is Stippy the Turd (shown on the right) who hopes to appear in future Amitiza DTC ads.

"The current Amitiza TV ad is pretty plain and not very catchy," says Stippy. He cited the following review recently published on Pharma Marketing Blog: "Amitiza DTC Ads Won't Win Any Awards, But..."

"Although I'd rather be working," claims Stippy, "I realize that the potty - er, I mean pot - may be bigger for me down the road if I support the strike now."

Some Critters, however, will benefit more than others from a new deal with the DTC ad producers.

Beaver, for example, is more active online than on TV these days. That means he gets very little current income no matter how popular he is online.

Some other, non-Critter DTC stars may suffer by being out of work during the strike.

Honest Abe is a case in point.

"This strike is going to be bad not only for non-Critters, but also for Critters themselves," argues Abe. "Many Critters will never, ever get any online exposure. That's because most pharmaceutical companies spend very little on online marketing. They especially are afraid of 'new media.' I just don't see, therefore, what all the fuss is about."

"That's easy for Abe to say," snips Beaver. "His livelihood doesn't depend on pharma DTC advertising. He also appears in many, many ads in other industry verticals. He's never lacking current income!"

At press time, it wasn't clear if non-Critters like Abe would honor the Critter picket lines. However, it's difficult to see how Takeda, for example, could run Rozerem TV ads with just Abe and without Beaver.

Producers say the royalty issues are non-starters, but Critters accuse producers of being nonresponsive.

If DTC ad Critters do go on strike, primetime network news shows would feel the pinch first.

Because of their aged audience, networks receive nearly 90% of ad revenue for nightly news shows from DTC advertising.

Friday, December 07, 2007

PGAD. EGAD! Another Syndrome/Disorder, Whatever!

Just when you thought it was OK to call Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) a "real" medical condition that affects mostly women, here comes another syndrome (no, disorder! whatever!) besetting women: Persistent Genital Arousal Disorder or PGAD. And Paxil may help treat it (you can read Ed Silverman's post "Persistent Genital Arousal Disorder - A Pill, Please" to find out more about that).

At first, when reading Ed's post, I thought this was about a condition affecting men. I've heard that men think of sex about once every 4 seconds. I'm sexually aroused right now just writing about this stuff. And no, I'm not talking about "priapism," which IS a real medical condition affecting men (who may be taking too much Viagra).

Nope. It's not about male persistent sexual arousal, which is a normal state for us guys (and we don't need no stinkin' pill for it either!). It's about women, some of whom need to masturbate repeatedly to deal with PGAD. One woman claims to have rejected her husband because she "treasured any time she was not feeling aroused." Maybe less masturbation would help?

This story was picked up on, which used the image shown here (above) to illustrate the story. I find it oddly disturbing, don't you?

I'm thinking this story is part of the opening PR/marketing salvo by the folks at GSK, the drug company that manufactures and markets Paxil, as they collect clinical data to support a PGAD indication for the drug.

GSK, you recall, is the same company that brought us Requip for RLS! Coincidence? I think not!

Right now, the Requip ad agency may be hard at work coming up with the Paxil/PGAD TV DTC ads that may take a page or two from the Requip/RLS ads. Here's my concept of the storyboard.

[Woman looks up into the camera. Ominous, mysterious music in background.]
"It was so frustrating. Like an urge I couldn't satisfy.
[Cut to woman in bed next to man -- assumed to be her husband. Woman is wriggling under the sheets with her hand down her pajama bottoms.]
"Night after night, strange feelings of arousal in my genitals kept me from falling asleep."
[Woman angrily tosses sheet up and over her male companion -- as if HE were to blame -- and gets up out of bed.]
"I had to get up and really masturbate when all I wanted to do was get out of this awful relationship!"
[Cut to woman in kitchen with a friend who shows her an "independent" article in Woman's Day magazine about "Persistent Genital Arousal Disorder". She sees the article and it is as if a light went off in her head.]
"I had PGAD - Persistent Genital Arousal Disorder!"
[Etc, etc; her doctor confirms it; symptoms worse whenever her husband WASN'T AROUND or at night when she was dreaming about OTHER men (or women, who knows!).]

[Cut to profile close-up of doctor's lips moving.]
"And then he said something else. PAXIL!"
[Background music changes to pleasant tune, very soothing. Side effects; etc., etc.]

[Cut to final scene. Woman riding bicycle with very hard, narrow seat down a country lane.]
"Thanks to Paxil, PGAD is not a problem any longer. Riding my bike also helps. And I got rid of my loser husband!"
[Fade to black.]

Let the hate comments come in!

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Can Big Pharma Avoid the Looming Patent Meltdown?

An article in the Wall Street Journal made this dire prediction:
"Generic competition is expected to wipe $67 billion from top companies' annual U.S. sales between 2007 and 2012 as more than three dozen drugs lose patent protection. That is roughly half of the companies' combined 2007 U.S. sales (see "Big Pharma Faces Grim Prognosis").
It also points out two of the main tactics that the drug industry is using to overcome this crisis: (1) increased spending on R&D, which doesn't seem to be working (see, for example, "torcetrapib: '$800 Million' Failure but Kindler Safe" and "Exubera: A Titanic Failure! What the survivors are saying.") and (2) using lobbying and legal tactics to delay generics and prevent consumers from importing cheaper drugs from Canada.

Go After the High-Hanging Fruit?
Not mentioned were other tactics that I have discussed here and in Pharma Marketing News such as tackling the adherence problem. Drug industry marketers have always focused their energy on getting new prescriptions (low-hanging fruit) rather than preventing the loss of 50% of their current customers due to poor compliance and persistence (high-hanging fruit). Here are some ideas on improving that situation:
Another idea I had involves extending patents in exchange for a DTC moratorium. Read about this idea in this blog post: "Restrict DTC, but Extend the Patent for New Drugs." Weigh the loss of $67 billion against the questionable ROI of DTC -- drug companies would also save a bundle on advertising. Of course, this requires Congress to pass a new law. Hey, it could happen!

Pharma has also been encouraged to break away from the blockbuster model (see, for example, "The New Branding Model: From Blockbusters to Targeted Therapies").

Do You Have Any Ideas?
It seems that there are a lot of ideas out there and I haven't heard much of why these shouldn't be tried. Therefore, I invite all my readers to participate in an online forum I have set up to discuss these and other ideas on how the drug industry can avert the looming patent meltdown. Submit your ideas and comments here: "How can Big Pharma Avoid the Looming Patent Meltdown?"

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

DocCheck® Physician Social Network Comes to US

Dr. Frank AntwerpesBack in December, 2005, I was invited by Dr. Frank Antwerpes (photo on left), CEO of DocCheck, a German Internet portal for physicians, to his European Medical Portal Meeting in Berlin, Germany.

I had a great time there and stayed at the upscale, but hard to find, Hotel Q!, winner of the Travel & Leisure's Design Award 2005 (Best Design Hotel) and located a few steps from Kurf├╝rstendamm, Berlin’s famous shopping mile packed with boutiques, restaurants, bars and galleries.

You can read all about my experience and learn a thing or two about DocCheck from the Pharma Marketing News article I wrote (see "DocCheck: Das Portal," free, limited-time access to pdf reprint here).

A lot has changed in 2 years -- specifically Web 2.0 and social networking. DocCheck -- I am happy to see -- has kept up and is now opening its doors to US physicians (see press release below).

I will be speaking with Dr. Antwerpes on my Pharma Marketing Talk podcast tomorrow (December 6) at 10 AM eastern time. You can listen in live here and start an online chat with me during the podcast or call in and ask questions. For more details about this podcast see "Building the First Global Community of Doctors."

Meanwhile, here's the press release:
DocCheck® establishes worldwide community of healthcare professionals

Cologne, 5 December 2007 – Following the successful launch of the DocCheck® Faces network in Germany, DocCheck, the leading community for medical professionals in Europe, is now making its social networking package available in other countries. The Italian version is already online. English, Spanish and French versions will follow in January 2008. The English version is also aimed at the US market. Within DocCheck Faces, medical practitioners can put their profile on show, set up their own forums and exchange news with colleagues.

In addition to the new community, services such as DocCheck Litbot (a program for managing medical publications) and the English-language DocCheck e-journal will be available to US physicians.

“Our aim is to establish a global community of healthcare professionals, thereby significantly improving international exchanges between physicians”, explains Dr. Frank Antwerpes, DocCheck’s CEO.

Over half a million registered users worldwide
With over 500,000 users, DocCheck is one of the most heavily subscribed medical portals in the world. Around 8,000 new DocCheck users register each month. While growth was primarily concentrated in Europe up to 2006, the number of users outside the EU has increased disproportionately in recent months. Already one in two physicians in Germany, where the community was first introduced, is a member of DocCheck.

DocCheck Medical Services GmbH
With over 500,000 registered members, DocCheck is the largest and fastest-growing B2B portal for medical professionals in Europe. Their password system is used to control access to over 1,700 websites of market-leading pharmaceutical companies in Germany. Online market research, eMarketing, and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) lie at the heart of DocCheck’s business model. Furthermore, the link to DocCheck Shop offers all members an eCommerce platform for the online purchase of over 15,000 items. DocCheck is a 100% owned subsidiary of DocCheck AG.

Press contact
DocCheck AG
Tanja Mumme
Corporate Communications
Vogelsanger Str. 66
50823 Cologne
Tel: +49-221-92053-139
Fax: +49-221-92053-133

Montel Williams Seeks Interns for 2008 - I Kid You Not!

Montel Williams, CEO of Letnom Management & Productions, and official spokesperson of PhRMA's Partnership for Prescription Assistance, who recently threatened to "blow up" a 17-year old female intern working for the Savannah Morning News (see back story here), is looking for a "responsible, reliable, and eager" unpaid intern to work during Spring 2008 semester.

Here are the details (modified from the real deal posted on

Montel Williams Office/Letnom Management and Productions i

This is a PART TIME Unpaid Internship
Location: Definitely NOT Savannah, GE; more like New York City (which needs more bomb threats like a hole in the head)
Date Posted: 11/8/2007 1:33:34 PM
Description: Montel Wiliams Office/ Letnom Management and Productions is currently seeking Spring '08 interns to assist in daily tasks including but not limited to: kissing up to Montel, telling him what a great "Star" he is, answering phone calls from PhRMA's Billy Tauzin crying about "damage control," researching into how to make and deliver bombs without leaving any traces for the FBI to follow, submitting to daily threats from Montel, plus other "normal" office duties.
Requirements: Qualified candidates should be enrolled in an accredited college or university. High School seniors also OK. Must be over 18, however. Montel doesn't want any trouble from federal authorities -- part of the job requires crossing state lines.

Must be able to receive harsh -- extremely harsh -- criticism without filing a police report or writing about it in blogs.

Applicants must be able to commit to 2 FULL days per week for a total of 16 hours a week.

Must be responsible, reliable, and eager to learn about the entertainment business. That includes the dark side as well. You know, the side where "stars" consider themselves above the law and get away with all kinds of outlandish behavior that would get mere mortals into deep doo doo.

Seriously, I made up a lot of the above BUT Montel is REALLY looking for interns! In case the link above doesn't work -- Letnom/Montel may be smart enough to remove the job listing after they get wind of this post -- I captured the screen (see image below, which you can click on to enlarge).

Normally, I would say "good luck with that" search for an intern given the fact that Montel has made a physical threat to at least one intern. However, I imagine there are many, many desperate college students hoping to break into the entertainment industry who would just LOVE to work for Montel. Despite my spoof, I have no doubt that he will treat HIS intern with the utmost respect and, should he ever cross the line and behave badly, he will apologize and send flowers. I also believe in peace and goodwill for all mankind.

P.S. Hopefully, this will be the last post about Montel Williams. I just HAD to post this -- the irony (if that is the right term) was just too precious not to share with my readers!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

PhRMA Intern v. Montel: HS Intern is Saved, But...

Yes, it's PhRMA Intern! Strange visitor from an Ivy League school who came to PhRMA with powers and ability far beyond those of Ken Johnson.

PhRMA Intern! Who can change the course of mighty news stories, bend the truth at will, and who disguised as Emily Jameson (no relation to Jenna Jameson), mild-mannered intern for a great pharmaceutical trade association, fights a never ending battle for believability, justice for pharmaceutical companies, and the PhRMA way!

One Day at PhRMA Headquarters
Our story begins at the PhRMA headquarters in Washington, DC where PhRMA Intern -- disguised as mild-mannered real intern Emily Jameson -- is going through her morning routine scanning the newspapers.

Emily reports directly to Ken Johnson, SVP at PhRMA and PhRM's chief spokesperson.

Usually, Emily sits in her cubicle fantasizing about Ken, but this morning something in the Savannah Morning News catches her attention and causes her outburst.

What could have upset her so much?!

Not able to remain calm, Emily reads a story about a threat Montel Williams made against a high school intern reporter working for the Savannah Morning News (see the back story here).

Emily knows that Montel is the national spokesperson hired by PhRMA for the Partners for Prescription Assistance program (PPA).

Briefly crossing Emily's steel-trap mind is the fact that Montel is a beloved Black entertainer suffering from MS.

She also remembers that the Association of Black Cardiologists is currently spotlighted as a Partner Organization on the PPA Web site. This organization, Emily recalls, has offices in Georgia, the same state in which Montel threatened a fellow intern! Very curious!

Not having any time to lose, Emily quickly transforms into PhRMA Intern and takes off to Georgia!

She's not quite sure what kind of "bomb" Montel has up his sleeve, but she takes the threat quite seriously even if Ken Johnson, Billy Tauzin, and the rest of PhRMA do not.

"Those spineless bastards are just stonewalling," laments PhRMA Intern. "They don't have any regard for the helpless hordes of young female interns out there! I have to take independent action!"

Out the window she flies to the joy and amazement of the local denizens who seem to be getting used to the sight of the flying, heroine!

She quickly arrives on the scene...
Is she too late? Will Montel get away with it? What's PhRMA Intern's plan?

Amazingly this stunt works and PhRMA Intern quickly gives chase to nab Montel who escaped the scene in the orange PPA bus.

But she is in for a surprise when she finally catches up with Montel in the lobby of a local hotel.

Like all cowards caught red-handed, Montel refuses to accept that his actions were terroristic and lashes out at PhRMA Intern, threatening not only her life but the very existence of PhRMA!

PhRMA intern agrees with blogger John Mack that Montel must be fired immediately by PhRMA, whose reputation is at stake.

More important, unless Montel is fired, Billy and Ken might be expelled from the exclusive Savannah Quarters Country Club whose members don't cotton to uppity "folk" like Montel Williams threatening their women/girls!

PhRMA Intern takes her case to Billy Tauzin, PhRMA's CEO, but is surprised by his reaction.

It appears that PhRMA will not take any action against Montel and PhRMA Intern is foiled again.

However, what about PPA Partner organizations like the Association of Black Cardiologists? Maybe they should demand that Montel be fired. Let's drop them a note and see what they say. Here's the contact information for the above organization:

Phone: 800-753-9222 (Toll-Free)
Fax: 404-201-6601

Monday, December 03, 2007

Montel Williams: Zero Tolerance for a Pharma Celebrity Spokesperson Gone Bad

Not so long ago, I called for pharma advertisers to boycott the Imus show over his infamous "nappy-headed ho" racial slur against young college athletes who never did him any harm (see "Glaxo, Pull Your Imus Ads!"). The next day, GSK and other advertisers did pull their ads.

Now another celebrity associated with the pharmaceutical industry has gone bad -- Montel Williams.

Recall that Mr. Williams is the celebrity spokesperson for the pharmaceutical industry's Partnership for Prescription Assistance’s "Orange Bus" PR campaign, which helps needy patients obtain free medicine (see video report here).

As reported by AP/MSNBC:

"Williams, a patient advocate since being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, terminated [a] Friday interview with [Courtney Scott, a Savannah Morning News high school intern] after she asked him: 'Do you think pharmaceutical companies would be discouraged from research and development if their profits were restricted?'

"Later, he confronted her and two other reporters after mistakenly believing they followed him to the Westin Savannah Harbor. But they were there to cover an unrelated assignment.

"Williams walked up to Scott and told her that 'I can look you up, find where you live and blow you up,' according to Joseph Cosey, a Web content producer for the newspaper."

Another account added some more detail: "As we were preparing to film, Montel walked up with his bodyguard and got in Courtney Scott's face pointing his finger telling her 'Don't look at me like that. Do you know who I am? I'm a big star, and I can look you up, find where you live and blow you up," said Joseph Cosey, a Web content producer for the newspaper.

These days, when high school students around the nation must attend schools with "zero tolerance" policies regarding physical threats, celebrities -- especially those paid by the pharmaceutical industry -- should ALSO be subject to zero tolerance.

I call upon PhRMA, therefore, to immediately fire Mr. Williams!

What do you say?

Should PhRMA Fire Montel?
Yes, because I support zero tolerance for this kind of behavior.
Yes, because he's now a PR liability.
No, because he has apologized.
No, because it's no big deal.
Not sure.

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