Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Boston Legal's Denny Crane Takes on Pharma Marketing. Where does he get his "facts?"

In last night's episode of Boston Legal, a TV show, Denny Crane -- the senior partner at Crane Poole & Schmidt played by William Shatner -- collapses due to "toxic shock" from the 30-40 medications he is taking. "Is that a lot?" asks Denny of his doctor.

Turns out that Denny suffers from acid reflux disease, "weak stream", restless leg syndrome, hemorrhoids, weak bowel, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure. Before he can finish citing his list of medical woes, which did NOT include erectile dysfunction by the way, his doctor warns him that "these drugs can interact." And why didn't his other doctor(s) warn him? The answer appears below.

Denny doesn't understand much about drug-drug interactions: "I keep them in separate bottles," he says.

Which leads the physician to ask "Where the hell are you getting your medical advice?"

"Television," says Denny. "They wouldn't advertise if it wasn't safe!"

This sets up one of the major themes of the episode in which Denny vows to take on the drug industry. "How about I sue the one that markets sixteen of the forty-two prescriptions I was taking," says Denny to his partner Alan Shore, played by James Spader.

When Alan suggests that it wasn't the drug company's fault, Denny points out that the ads cite side effects as if they were "reading the telephone book. The benefits get all the bells and whistles," says Denny. "I'm going to sue. Let's get 'em."

Boston Legal is one of my favorite shows. It takes on issues like the Patriot Act that the news media lacks the balls to critique. Of course, taking on the drug industry is a favorite past time of the media, at least according to many drug industry executives and spokespeople.

BTW, one of the advertisers on the Boston Legal show's website is Veramyst, a prescription drug (see screen shot on left). It is one of those ads that presents side effects as if "reading the telephone book."

How can a show survive that is critical of the marketing practices of its advertisers? Simple. It doesn't. I've heard from the show's bulletin board that the it will be canceled after this year.

Although this storyline looked promising, I just could not keep awake to watch the episode live. Luckily, however, I was able this morning to view the episode on abc.com and report here on the outcome.

In pre-trial talks with the suits from the pharmaceutical company being sued, Denny and Alan hear from the other side: "Tell me why we shouldn't counter-sue for...," says one of the drug company's lawyers (of which there are several present). He cited "frivolous law suit and extortion" as two reasons. For a comeback, Alan says "My impression of the pharmaceutical industry is it's always so nice." Hah! Good one!

"What is it exactly you are claiming we did?"

"You brainwashed my client," said Alan. "The massive marketing strategy employed by your trade association caused him to gulp down forty-two different drugs on a daily basis."

At this point I wondered what PhRMA marketing program Alan was referring to and why he did not blame specifically the drug company's marketing program? Who is he suing? PhRMA or a particular drug company, which is what Denny suggested?

Anyway, Alan continues. "You market to senior citizens because your research shows they are easy targets, susceptible to deceptive advertising."

"What happened to him," one pharma suit said, "was his own stupidity." That's always a crowd-pleaser comeback. "Do you actually think you can intimidate us? Do you have the slightest sense of how powerful we are?" asks the suit.

"Last week I took on the tobacco industry," said Alan. "Imagine my surprise to discover you two are so much alike."

Alan goes on to compare the two industries, citing biased research, marketing to children, massive lobbying budgets, suppression of information that proves that your products kill people, etc., etc.

"The only difference I can see is that the FDA is hostile to cigarettes. You, they roll over for," says Alan. Wow! The zinger!

But then Alan had a Dr. Evil moment. "I'm the one that just nicked the tobacco industry for $200 million," boasted Alan. That's a big number, but not much more than 6 month's DTC marketing budget for a blockbuster drug. Lunesta, for example, spent nearly that much on DTC in the first half of 2007 (see "Lunesta's Ad Spending Spree and Other DTC Oddities").

Blame the Internet
At the pre-trial hearing I learned how it was that Denny could have been prescribed so many medicines that interacted with each other: he purchased them off the Internet without consulting a physician! Now how likely is that? I mean to say, how likely is a multi-millionaire lawyer to go on the Internet to purchase medicines and without first consulting a doctor? Surely, Denny has a great health plan with a low deductible for Rx drugs!

Anyway, I can suspend my disbelief just as well as the next guy, and believe that the unbridled Internet is the drug industry's defense.

Alan hits all the anti-industry buttons. He brings up an "industrywide pattern": "They've been caught buying clinical trials, bribing doctors, distorting science...many of these so-called peer-review articles we see in medical journals are actually ghost-written by the drug companies themselves and doctors take payoffs and let their names appear as the authors."

"The fact is, the US pharmaceutical industry spends almost twice as much on promotion as it does on research and development. American television viewers spend as much as 16 hours of prescription drug advertising each year. They invent diseases...be it restless leg syndrome, dry eye, unspecified sleep disorders..." Again, no mention of erectile dysfunction, my favorite drug industry invented disease.

Where Does the Show Get the Data It Cites?
I'd like to know where the show gets the data it cites, although I have a pretty good idea. For example, the "factoid" that the drug industry spends 2X as much on marketing as it does on R&D probably comes from a PLoS Medicine article that I critiqued a long time ago (see "Promotion vs. R&Deja vu all over again!"). It would be interesting if the show's website included all works used for the numbers it cites, but I guess that would be too much to expect.

Anyway, back to the show.

When the judge allows the case to go forward, the pharma lawyer blurts out "What? Are you crazy?" and Alan retorts "Perhaps you have a pill she could take." "Do I look like an idiot," asks the judge. "They have a pill for that too," says Alan. Yeah, I wish! Good fun. Watch the episode here.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Are Soon-to-be-Off-Patent Blockbuster Drugs Another "Troubled Asset" Needing Bailout?

While everyone was focused on the $700 billion proposal to bailout Wall Street, hardly anyone noticed the $25-$50 billion bailout of the automobile industry that is currently in the works (see "House passes auto industry bailout").

Many other industries, including the pharmaceutical industry, would probably love to join the Bailout Billions Recipient Club.

For some time now, I've been running a poll of readers asking them if the pharmaceutical industry is in a recession. Almost 80% of the nearly 800 respondents have said that it is in a recession (you can take the poll here - "Bailout Bonanza, Recession Redux" - and see the current results).

According to an article published in the "Yer Biotech Blues" column on MidwestBusiness .com (see "Will the Same Chaos Happen to the Pharma Industry?"), the pharma industry has about $20 billion in assets (leading drugs) in jeopardy (loss of patent) in 2008.

Little noticed in all the hubbub over Wall Street was the fact that the $700 bailout was expanded to include the possibility of helping other industries: "Other businesses, such as student and credit-card lenders, also could eventually access the program. To permit that, House and Senate versions of the bill written overnight -- with lobbyist input -- now include language broadening the types of assets eligible for sale under the plan, from 'mortgage-related' to 'troubled assets.' The bill now goes by the acronym TARP, for Troubled Asset Relief Program." [See WSJ: "Auto-Finance Firms Seek a Hand"]

So, it is not inconceivable that the drug industry will benefit at taxpayers' expense in addition to the mortgage and auto industries!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

What I Saw at the Doctors' Choice Awards Ceremony

I spent yesterday in New York City attending the 2008 Doctors' Choice Awards ceremony at the posh Palace Hotel (see my previous post about the awards: "Drug Ads from the Doctor's Perspective").

The surrounding area looked like the Green Zone in Baghdad: concrete barricades, police in riot gear, black SUVs, and secret service agents all over the place. No, all this security wasn't for the protection of Doctors' Choice award winners. Nor was it was to protect the rich denizens of the upper east side/Park Avenue neighborhood from rioting middle class workers whose life savings were about to be appropriated in the bailout of Wall Street. It was merely related to activity going on at the UN.

Anyway, I was dressed in my best suit and passed through all the security unnoticed as I slipped into the side entrance of the Palace and registered for this well-attended event. I met several friends including James Chase, Editor-in-Chief of Medical Marketing & Media (MM&M). I first met James at MM&M's own awards ceremony in 2007 (see "Pharma Marketing Blog: MM&M Award Winners Announced at Gala NY Event!").

James is really a fun guy to party with, as you can see from the photo of the two of us at the MM&M event. But often I cannot tell if he is serious or just kidding around. Like when he mentioned that I called the MM&M's awards "fixed" in my blog post. Well, I did say this: "Overall, AT [Abelson-Taylor] won 6 awards (2 GOLD and 4 SILVER)! I'm not saying the MM&M Awards are 'fixed,' but when one product wins three awards (albeit 2nd place awards), you got to wonder what's going on. I'll leave it at that."

But James should weigh that against all the free publicity and search engine visibility my comments have given the MM&M awards. Search on "James Chase MM&M" on Google and my blog post is #2 in the natural search results ahead of MM&M's announcement of the 2008 awards, which is #4. Also, if you search Google images, the first one is the photo of me and James at the 2007 MM&M awards ceremony.

I also met three unassuming guys from MedThink -- Walt Clark (Partner), Scott Goudy (Partner), and Sean Frederick (Associate Creative Director). They were dressed casual, did not have business cards, and did not have a full-page ad in the glossy Doctors' Choice Award book that was handed out to everyone attending.

Despite their unassuming airs, they won two awards: their ad for Colazal -- a drug which since has gone generic; see left -- won the award in the gastroenterologicals category and the same ad was the overall winner in the one-page category! In my previous post, I mentioned that this ad was my favorite. I sure hope they read this and give me a call so I can pitch them to advertise in Pharma Marketing News!

Meanwhile, Abelson-Taylor, which did have a full-page ad in the book, won two awards -- one for Rozerem (of course) and one for Natrecor. In addition, Jay Taylor, AT SVP, gave the keynote address that stunned the audience when he (1) said "we are sitting on a bubble" and (2) teared-up remembering the first patient he treated who died of cancer (Jay was in the last stage of becoming a pharmacist when he quit to go into advertising).

Is It Real or PhotoShopped?

When each award was announced, there was commentary explaining the rationale of the ad design and sometimes a factoid on how it was created. I learned, for example that AT's Natrecor ad -- with the patient on a hospital bed partially submerged in water -- was created by actually submerging the bed and actor in water -- or so they said. It befit an agency that one presenter said was "steeped in authenticity."

That lead me to wonder if the ad for Flomax -- which shows an iceberg in water -- was photographed from a real submarine or just PhotoShopped? The two ads are juxtaposed in the image below:

During the presentation of page unit awards, the presenters -- Vince Parry (InVentiv Health) and Brendan Ward (Regan Campbell Ward McCann) -- had some fun commenting on ads much as I am doing here. I don't remember who said what, but here are some choice comments they made regarding specific ads:
  • YAZ: "The birth control version of Certs!" (YAZ is indicated for both birth control and acne.)
  • CHANTIX: "If there is an addiction in the pharma industry, it is to power! Every [ad] headline has the P word." (A Chantix ad showed an exploding cigarette -- which may have been done with actual explosives -- and the headline: "The Power to Help Them Quit.")
  • CLINDAREACH: "The women in my office wondered what the guy in the ad was doing with his other hand." (See the relevant page of the 3-page ad below.)
Obviously, humorous critiques of professional print ads is as common inside the industry as are my critiques of DTC ads outside the industry. It's good to see that these people have a sense of humor -- especially when it is not their own ads.

Meta-Award Analysis
During the ceremony I had an opportunity to chat with James in between his picture-taking, intelligence-gathering sorties into the crowd.

He shared with me some details of MM&M's award process, which is quite impressive. For example, at least 45 judges are involved, which is quite a bit more than what the FDA has for reviewing DTC broadcast ads. It seems that we could kill two birds with one stone if the judges of these ads also submitted reviews to the FDA for a fee.

Another idea I discussed with James was a meta-analysis of all these award activities, which tend to focus on the same ads. I noticed, for example, that most of the professional ads that were considered for Doctors' Choice awards could be categorized as either "DTC-like" or "Detail Aid-like." If the judges (docs in this case) rated each ad according to some numerical scale, then we might learn if docs responded better to DTC-like or Detail Aid-like ads or something else.

I'm joking, of course.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Bailout Bonanza, Recession Redux

The issues facing us Americans today go way beyond our vested interest in the pharmaceutical industry. For example, debating whether or not the industry is in a recession is a small matter and almost goes without saying considering recent events unfolding on Wall Street and Main Street.

When I first asked the question "Is the pharma industry in a recession?" back in March, 2008, (see here), the world was a much different place and you could cite economic statistics that showed that technically we were not in a recession. Pity the fool who would now claim that the economic indicators are sound and we are not yet in a recession. ("Prevent a recession," however, is the rallying cry of the administration in its bid to force Congress to act hastily in approving the administration's bailout bonanza for Wall Street without addressing accountability on Wall Street and what's in it for us; as if the recession is not already here.)

The overwhelming majority of respondents to my poll agree that the drug industry is in a recession (see poll and results at end of this post). But even today pro-industry people like Bob Ehrlich continue to place a positive spin on negative data such as recent Nielson data regarding DTC advertising: "the second quarter that shows a 9% decline versus year ago. The first half 2008 is down about 5%" (see "DTC Spending Down! A Temporary Blip or Troubling Trend?"). For a counterview see: "DTC Marketers Heading for Skid Row!"

What Bob Ehrlich and my financial adviser have in common is the belief that all this is just a temporary "blip." When my adviser started to defend his position by whipping out the stock market's performance over the last 20 years as an indicator of its expected performance over the next 20 years, I stopped him right there. The next twenty years will look NOTHING like the past 20 years -- not with the level of debt we will be facing as a result of bailing out industry after industry (even the auto industry wants in on the bailout bonanza!).

What do you think? Is it a "blip" or a full-blown recession? Or a DEPRESSION!

Is the Pharma Industry in a Recession?
Not sure
Not yet, but soon
May not be a recession, but it's hurting!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

A Great Resource to Help You Keep Track of Election Issues of Interest to Pharma

There's more and more information coming my way about Obama's and McCain's views on healthcare and other issues of importance to the pharmaceutical industry.

I have been keeping track of this and posting information to a special discussion forum devoted to the presidential campaign: 2008 Presidential Election News & Views.

If you register at the site -- choose a username and password, you can subscribe to the forum (click on "Forum Tools" to view dropdown box of options) and get notified by email daily or weekly to keep track of new posts made to the forum. Other registered users or site visitors will not see your email address. You control all the information that is in your public profile.

But you do not have to register on the site to post your opinions. You can make posts to this forum as a guest WITHOUT registering. That way, nobody will know who you are.

So, please post your own stories, sources of information, and opinions to this forum. Just keep it relevant to the political issues of importance to the pharmaceutical industry.

P.S. You can also participate in my McCain vs. Obama Survey and give me your opinions anonymously. Just one simple question: Who do you intend to vote for? After completing this survey, you can see the aggregated, de-identified results. If you were undecided before and now have made up you mind, you can go back and change your answer!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Pro-Industry Supporters Gather in Washington, DC in Attempt to Put Out "Five Alarm" Industry-Sponsored CME Fire

I awoke today at 4 AM to catch an Amtrak train to Washington, DC so that I could attend a meeting hosted by the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest (CMPI) on industry support of continuing medical education (CME). The organizers of this meeting were Peter Pitts and Robert Goldberg, both of whom contribute to the DrugWonks blog.

Since I am currently hosting a survey entitled “Is Pharma Sponsored CME Biased?” -- which you can respond to here -- I felt that I needed to attend this meeting to get a “balanced” and unbiased view of the issue.

Actually, none of the presenters claimed to be unbiased. In fact, a point often made by the panelists -- many of whom are physicians -- is that it is impossible to totally eliminate bias in CME. It is just as likely, the panelists claimed, that non-industry sponsored CME is as biased as is industry-sponsored CME.

George Lundberg, MD, Editor-in-Chief of the Medscape Journal, lead off the meeting and cited surveys that the vast majority of physicians -- maybe 80 or 90% -- like industry-sponsored CME and only 10% of physicians claim industry-sponsored CME is biased. Dr. Lundberg did not reveal details about the studies he cited, but he is an honorable person who once was Editor-in-Chief of JAMA. So, I’ll take his word for it.

Other panelists also pointed out that eliminating industry sponsorship of CME will not end bias. “One does not equate to the other,” said Leonard Bielroy, MD, Chair, Department of Asthma and Immunology at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey.

Lundberg ended his presentation by comparing the CME industry in the US with the investment banking/insurance industry, which is currently undergoing a financial meltdown. Whereas the latter is “murky and broken,” said Lundberg, the former is transparent, not broken and in no need to be fixed by the government. There is absence of accountability and regulation in the financial industry, whereas in the CME industry there is an “umpire” -- ACCME, which has “worked well in the past and will work even better in the future,” said Lundberg.

Michael Weber, MD, Professor of Medicine, Downstate Medical Center, Brooklyn, NY, who moderated the panel after Lundberg, set the tone of the meeting by claiming the drug industry was in a “total funk” when it comes to standing up to the censorship that critics are trying to impose on physician education. Weber believes that the drug industry should actually be mandated to sponsor CME as a way to educate physicians about the proper use of drugs.

Which actually is not such a bad idea, if, for example, the pharmaceutical CME money went into a general pool to be distributed to recognized and accredited CME providers. Sort of like PDUFA funds earmarked for FDA review of DTC advertising. Peter Pitts, President of CMPI, called any such scheme “pdoofass.” That about ended that discussion thread before it even began.

The rhetoric was ratcheted up several notches by Thomas Stossel, MD, Professor of Medicine, Harvard University. Stossel likened the situation facing industry-sponsored CME to a “six alarm fire” and suggested that it is important to get at the “arsonists.”

Stossel named Merrill Goozner of Gooznews.com as one of these “arsonists.” Other panelists suggested that a good many industry-sponsored CME “arsonists” may be their colleagues in physician associations and medical schools that are calling for an end to pharma-sponsored CME.

Stossel, as well as other presenters, ridiculed all the fuss about “disclosure” of conflicts of interest and said it amounted to “inquisition by disclosure.” Physicians, it seems, do not like to submit their slides for review and several panelists called the practice “totalitarianism” and “tyranny.” Meyer actually brought up Munich, Germany, and claimed physicians had more freedom in that birthplace of the Nazi Party than they do here in the good old USA! Then Stossel suggested that the “victims should stop being victims” and start defending themselves. Another Nazi-era reference! He topped it off by citing a 2006 JAMA article that brought on a “jihad” of “falsification” and “fabrication.”

By this time I was getting turned off by all the rhetoric and name calling. I was at a loss to understand how CMPI intended to win over Congressional aides in the audience by hinting that their bosses were arsonists and terrorists! Also, I did not wake up at 4 AM, spend over $175 out of my own pocket -- probably the only one in the room to do so! -- on trains and taxis and waste a whole day just to hear insults and anecdotal evidence that industry-sponsored CME was good for medicine. I was promised that this meeting would be an “evidence-based evaluation” of the issue. As the morning wore on, I heard scant evidence.

Then, Marissa Seligman, PharmD, SVP, Pri-Med Institute, came up the mic and actually presented some evidence. Her company is a MECC -- a medical education communications company that creates and delivers industry-sponsored CME. Like other MECCs, Pri-Med surveys physicians who have taken their CME courses to gauge outcomes -- has the CME changed physician prescribing behavior, for example. It also asks physicians whether or not the CME program was biased. The data that Seligman presented on physician attitudes towards commercial support of CME say that 57% believed industry grants had a positive impact on the CME, whereas 24% said it had a negative impact and 19% said it was neither positive nor negative.

She also cited data that claimed that 92% of physicians disagree that industry support of CME should be banned. That was based on only 200 physicians who participated in Pri-Med CME programs. Not scientific, but good enough for Lundberg, I suppose.

My advice to CMPI and their MECC allies is to do a meta analysis of all the outcomes studies done by CME providers and make their case based on the data rather than name-calling and rhetoric. I don’t think data will sway the “anti-pharma zealots,” “arsonists,’ or “jihadists,” but it may lead to a positive story in the New York Times and the other media that have “mercilessly beaten up” the pro-industry people.

BTW, I will expand upon the coverage of this meeting in the October issue of Pharma Marketing News (subscribe now to get this issue free).

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Drug Ads from the Doctor's Perspective

While I often report on pharmaceutical print ads targeted to consumers (see, for example, "Print DTC: How Does It Measure Up?" [free]) I don't have direct access to print ads that doctors are subjected to (ie, professional print ads that appear in medical journals). But now -- thanks to the folks at the Association of Medical Media (AMM) -- I have a chance to view the drug ads that doctors like the best.

Yes, dear reader, I'm off to yet another awards ceremony in New York -- The Doctors' Choice (TDC) awards ceremony at the Palace Hotel on September 24, 2008. If you are there (see the ad in the left hand column), be sure to say hello and perhaps meet me for a drink at the fancy-schmancy hotel bar.

Thanks AMM for the invite, free lunch, and especially the preview of the ads that you sent me.

This will be about the 4th advertising awards ceremony I have attended during the past year or so. In April, I attended MedAdNews Manny Awards and in October, 2007, I attended MM&M's swank awards dinner at Tavern on the Green (see "MM&M Award Winners Announced at Gala NY Event!"). I've also attended a DTC Perspectives awards dinner. So far, MM&M wins hands down in terms of partying!

TDC awards are based on doctors' opinions rather than ad agencies patting themselves on the back. Doctors are asked to rate ads on the following attributes:
  • Prompts seeking more information or re-examination of treatment
  • Helps with clinical decisions
  • Adds to information provided by company representative
  • Has immediate appeal to gain interest
  • Communicates clearly and quickly
  • Reminds about value of product prescribed
So, which ads won TDC awards? You can find the list here, but I will show you a few below.

My Favorites
No award ceremony would be complete it seems without a Rozerem ad or its agency Abelson-Taylor winning at least one award! I've written about this product and agency ad naseum, so I won't go into all that now except to say how quickly things change. The doctors who voted for this ad and other ads in the TDC contest did so in 2007. At the time Rozerem might still have enjoyed a 5% market share amongst sleep aids. Now, however, I am not sure it is even on the radar screen of any physician. Maybe it won this award by default -- ie, the only entry in the "psychiatrics" category?

Remember, increased script writing as a result of seeing the ad is NOT one of the attributes by which this and other ads were judged.

Another ad by Abelson-Taylor also won an a TDC award: Natrecor. The ad is shown below (click it to enlarge).

I don't know how the sales of Natrecor have been, but I do know that the FDA slapped Scios' wrist for putting the ad on a mouse pad that its sales reps handed out to physicians (see "The Natrecor Waterboard Tortured Tchotchke"). FDA said the image "evokes the concept of a sedentary hospital patient drowning" and cited the mousepad for "inappropriate reminder labeling."

I note that Scios is not a signatory of PhRMA's new code on interactions with healthcare professionals, which calls for the end of such gifts to the physicians beginning in January, 2009 (see this Pharma Marketing News article).

This particular ad -- aside from having a memorable image that caught the attention of the FDA -- is in a category of physician ads that I call Detail Aid Ads. Detail Aid Ads are chuck full of data and charts and graphs just like the printed detail aids that sales reps use when talking to physicians. At least that is how detail aids are supposed to be used. However, at the recent PharmaMed conference, at least one expert disparaged the detail aid as a dinosaur that should be allowed to go extinct. I think this is the only Detail Aid Ad among the TDC award winners.

Another technical-looking ad that won a TDC award is an ad for Colazal, shown below.

This one is my real favorite of the bunch. It doesn't depend on capturing your attention with offbeat imagery and images of suffering patients -- just plain anatomy, which probably plays well with gastroenterologists, who always see their patients as colons and/or anuses.

Speaking of suffering patients, the Cymbalta winner takes the cake in that category!

I really, really feel sorry for this guy! Not because his feet hurt, but because he has to suffer alone, without any contact with other humans (a dog doesn't count)! But after taking Cymblata (see last panel) he no longer is alone! What an amazing drug! I have noted previously that Cymbalta was the world's wonder drug (see "The Cymbalta Buzz Machine is at Full Throttle!").

At least this professional ad is on-label whereas some Cymbalta DTC ads are not, IMHO (see "eGAD! How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Cymbalta!").

The last two TDC award ads in my collection -- Vigamox and Pataday -- resemble DTC print ads. Both are Alcon drugs and both ads were created by Corbett Worldwide.

I may have seen DTC print ads for these products, but I am sure the DTC ad budget is minuscule. BTW, the Vigamox ad was featured in the Manny Award ceremony because Corbett Worldwide won an Agency of the Year award at that event.

There's a lot I do not know about professional print ads. I hope to learn a lot by attending The Doctors' Choice award luncheon and meeting the people responsible. Stay tuned for an update.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Pharma Money Continues to Pour Into Obama's Coffers

The pharmaceutical industry's PAC money continues to favor Obama over McCain! The chart below compares donations as of July 28, 2008 with those as of September 2, 2008. Pharma PAC contributions to Obama grew by 6.1% during this period, whereas contributions to McCain grew by 4.6%. Obama has now received just about 2X more pharma PAC money as has McCain!

What does it all mean? Is Obama better for pharma? What do YOU think? Who do you intend to vote for?

If you haven't given me your opinion on Obama vs. McCain yet, please take 2 minutes to respond to the survey, which you can find here. If you have already taken the survey and wish to change your response (especially if you were undecided before and have now made up your mind who to vote for), you can go back and change your response as long as you are using the same computer and have not deleted cookies.

As always, you can remain anonymous or you can identify yourself if you wish to be quoted in a Pharma Marketing News article I plan to write for the October, 2008 issue. I keep all comments confidential and, if I quote someone, I always let them review it before publication.

SOURCE: OpenSecrets.org

METHODOLOGY: The totals on these charts are calculated from PAC contributions and contributions from individuals giving more than $200, as reported to the Federal Election Commission. Individual contributions are generally categorized based on the donor's occupation/employer, although individuals may be classified instead as ideological donors if they've given more than $200 to an ideological PAC.

Device Marketing is Easy and Other Learnings from the PharmaMed Conference

The folks at MedAdNews and their medical device trade publication partner, MX, put together the first PharmaMed Marketing & Media conference this week. Thanks to June Portnoy, the conference marketing person, who gave me a press pass to this conference, I was able to catch up with some old friends and meet many new ones. Chris Truelove, Editor-in-Chief of MedAdNews, was there and so was Christine Gaudet, the conference manager.

Aside from meeting friends at this conference, I learned a few things from the presentations. Imagine that! I'll write about what I learned in more detail in a future issue of Pharma Marketing News. I will just mention a few highlights here.

Perhaps the most interesting thing I learned is how easy it is to do medical device marketing!

Jill Serbousek, VP Business & Marketing Strategy at Medtronic, presented a case study of a marketing campaign for a spinal surgery device, which a $75,000 market research study told her was one of the "ugliest and scariest products on the market."

[Medtronic was in the news not too long ago because of the recall of its Sprint Fidelis cardiac defribillation lead. See the FDA video here.]

Serbousek's presentation was very entertaining and packed with data -- something you don't see many marketers giving away. For example, she told us that among the 5 million spine surgery candidates out there in the US, she only needed to capture 125 of them to break even on a very successful marketing campaign that reached 6.2 million local TV viewers. 80.5 million radio (especially satellite radio) listeners, 4 million print readers, and 73 million Internet browsers. See reached that goal in 2 weeks!


ROI? Medical device marketers don't need no stinkin' ROI!

Serbousek also dosen't need to pay physicians to work for her as editors, advisers, and writers! Well, at least that's what she says is her policy. Which I admire. But I am sure, like many medical device manufacturers, Medtronic partners with physicians to develop devices and share with them royalties and other types of payment for research.

I hope to cover this in much more detail in Pharma Marketing News.

Continuing on with medical device marketing...

Sam Trujillo, Director, Consumer Marketing, Women's Healthcare Business United, Bayer Healthcare Pharmaceuticals, not only has a long and complicated job title, he also has a long history in pharmaceutical marketing and presented his buzz marketing strategy for Mirena, an intrauterine contraceptive device.

Mirena, Trujillo said, "was not an easy sale" and direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertising may not be an optimal marketing approach for such a product. His research found that 95% of US women (and 92% of men) cited recommendations by a friend as a source that influenced them to purchase a product. Seventy-four percent (74%) cited TV and 44% cited the Internet. Billboard advertising for Mirena, said Trujillo, was absolutely off the table.

Consequently, the Mirena campaign depended very much on WOM -- word of mouth. I won't get into the details here. You can read more about it in a future issue of Pharma Marketing News.

What's Keeping Pharma Marketers Up at Night?
Sander Flaum, a Pharmaceutical Executive Magazine columnist and industry consultant, moderated a 2-person panel on the topic of "What's Keeping Healthcare Marketrs Up at Night?" That's easy! A rooster (see here)! Not much else that this panel talked about was memorable enough for me to write down in my notes.

In fact, what they did NOT talk about was more interesting than what they did talk about. There was talk about the importance of vaccines; mostly, the panel blamed the media for exaggerating the significance of side effects of vaccines like Gardisil. But no one mentioned that one presidential candidate and his running mate -- McCain/Palin -- are anti-science. McCain, for example, does not use the Internet and does not dispute the assertion that vaccines can cause autism! Palin apparently believes in creationism and that the universe was created 6,000 years ago! Maybe that's why a significant proportion of pharma people taking my survey do not intend to vote for McCain.

But Flaum was a gas and uttered such pearls of wisdom as "Billy Tauzin [President of PhRMA] is the wrong person for the job!" I think he was implying -- no, he actually mentioned -- that a former Congressman does not know the industry. Who should head up PhRMA according to Flaum? "Get a pharma CEO." Oh, boy! I can see I'll have to contact PhRMA Intern about that!

Flaum also said, with all due respect to attorneys that were not present in the room at the time, "the only obstacles to innovation are our attorneys."

Obviously, Sander would make a great guest for my Pharma Marketing Talk podcast radio show!

Friday, September 12, 2008

New Yorker Cartoon: A Slice of Medico-Pharma Life!

Is it just me, or is New Yorker magazine on an anti-pharma spree?

I subscribe to New Yorker magazine because I am a former New Yorker and frequently visit that city to get some culture under my belt and some shopping done. I admit, however, that I read the New Yorker cartoons first and merely glance through the show and cabaret reviews!

Lately, I've been seeing more and more New Yorker cartoons that focus on what I call the "Medico-Pharma Complex;" that is, the relationship between medicine/medical research and drug development.

The cartoon shown here is from the September 15, 2008, issue of the magazine and can be found online at the New Yorker CartoonBank Web site.

I can imagine the caption being an exact quote of a comment that a pharmaceutical company CEO might have said to his head of R&D.

And it's so true!

PhRMA and individual drug companies often refer to "cures" as in the following:
"[Many countries] seem to imagine that pharmaceutical companies can come up with new cures and medicines without putting up blockbuster capital." -- Billy Tauzin, 2005 Competitive Enterprise Institute Annual Dinner; see press release here.

"From research comes recovery" and "developing new, safe medicines to prevent and treat the world's most serious diseases" -- Pfizer's Web Site

"Transforming Today's Science Into Tomorrow's Cures" -- Samaritan Pharmaceuticals.
I could cite many more examples of the drug industry's use of the words "cure," "recovery," etc. when expressing their goals. A cure is a good goal to have, but when are we going to reach it?

Are cures for high blood pressure, diabetes, Alzheimers, insomnia, etc. going to come from the drug industry? Not unless you believe that taking a pill every day for the rest of your life is a cure. What I'd like to have is a course of treatment for high blood pressure that involves two weeks of drug therapy and then no more high blood pressure for years or the rest of my life! You know, just like some of the first drugs ever developed: antibiotics!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Do Privacy Concerns Stand in the Way of Measuring Pharma eMarketing ROI?

During yesterday's MM&M Webcast "How to get the right DTC mix - and measure the ROI," there was a lot of talk about why and how pharmaceutical companies should be spending more on Internet advertising. Of course, a few or all of the speakers have a vested interest in raising pharma's eMarketing bar.

But a few good points were made and I was able to get an answer to my question of why pharmaceutical marketers don't measure eMarketing ROI (return on investment) as rigorously as do, say, packaged goods marketers like the Kellogg cereal company. Yes, privacy concerns were cited as one of the reasons. Before I get into that let me review a few points made by presenters.

Pharma's Dismal Online Media Spend
Dorothy Gemmell, SVP, pharmaceutical and medical device markets, WebMD, observed that "as more and more consumers depend on and go to the Internet as their primary source of health information, the pharmaceutical industry spending on DTC [direct-to-consumer] advertising has had minimal [my emphasis] shift since 2002. With 80% usage and higher satisfaction than any other media, the [pharma] spend is still at 2.6%". See chart on left (click it for an enlarged view).

WebMD has reason for concern. It has twice this year lowered its estimate of ad revenue for 2008 (see "Pharma Online Ad Bellwether WebMD Foresees Ad Slowdown").

BTW, Gemmell did not mention the source of her data. When I analyzed measured media ad spending data from Nielsen Monitor-Plus, I found that pharma spends only 1.3% of its ad budget on the Internet (see "Pharma Recession, Part Deux: Online Ad Spending Sinking!"). Perhaps Gimmell's 2.6% figure includes online search, which can account for 40-50% of all online ad spending.

Whatever! The real point is that the needle on pharma online ad spending has not changed since 2002 and perhaps even much earlier.

Can't Get No Satisfaction
To support her claim that satisfaction with online information is greater than any other media source, Gemmell presented the chart on the left.

Different people may interpret this chart in different ways. For example, when I look at this chart, I mentally multiply Usage x Satisfaction and see that print and TV may still beat the Internet using this combined Usage/Satisfaction metric.

To better make her point, Gemmell would have been better off using a chart showing ONLY the Satisfaction data. [BTW, I learned how to think this way by observing how the Bush administration presents data.]

OK. That's the case for why the pharmaceutical industry should spend more online than it currently does. But why doesn't it?

One reason often cited is the difficulty in measuring the ROI of online marketing (see, for example, "Why Pharmaceutical Marketers Ignore ROI" -- to get a $3.00 discount, use the Discount Code: BlogSpecial).

Why ROI Measurement is Hard for Pharma
Melissa Clark, director, integrated consumer marketing CV franchise, Novartis, who also spoke at the MM&M Webinar, provided some interesting details of why it is so hard for pharmaceutical companies to do eMarketing ROI. She mentioned difficulty in doing "match-back" studies and current limitations with online panels (more on that below).

One of the presenters -- I'm not sure who -- showed that the packaged goods industry -- specifically Kellogg -- had no problem measuring their eMarketing ROI. In fact, Kellogg recently announced that "its return on online investment for the Special K brand has surpassed that of broadcast TV over the past 18 months." And by a factor of "well over two," said Kellogg Chief Marketing Officer Mark Baynes, who plans to slash the company's TV-commercial filming by 10% to 20% in the next year (AdvertisingAge).

My question to the presenters was this:

"How did Kellogg get around the ROI obstacles that Clark mentioned and why can't pharma do it as well?"

The answers given to that question were very informative -- and a lot more useful than all the talk about how great the Internet is for reaching and getting your message to consumers online.

First, Gemmell speculated how Kellogg measured the effectiveness of broadcast advertising vs. Internet advertising. "My understanding is the measurement [of Internet ROI] was similar to the way they measure their broadcast [ROI], which was around purchase intent and lifts in awareness. Today, it is very hard to go all the way back to the Rx [prescription] for reasons that Melissa mentioned. The panels and methodology are new and very small."

I've spoken to many experts that claim to have solved this problem for the pharmaceutical industry. ComScore, for example, uses panelist behavioral and survey data from current and prospective patients to provide pharmaceutical marketers with a better understanding of which e-marketing initiatives -- whether online banner ads, search marketing or branded and unbranded websites -- have the biggest impact on brand awareness, brand favorability, incremental new patient starts and incremental current patient adherence/next fill. You can hear all about this in the Pharma Marketing Talk podcast "Pharma eMarketing Benchmarks: Helping Pharma eMarketing 'Grow up,' Optimize & Scale."

But Melissa Clark, who "worked quite a while at Nabisco," really hit the nail on the head in her reply to my question. First, she explained why the PG industry has a much easier task measuring eMarketing effectiveness.

"It is much easier to measure what you're doing in the packaged goods world," said Clark. "you don't have to think about how to translate [what happens in] the physician's office into specific scripts all the way down to the patient level. The challenges that we're having as it relates to ROI is making sure that we do match-back studies...get patients to opt-in to market research and then take their data and send it through Verispan or Crossix who then match that data back to prescribing data."

Clark referred to a "whole wealth of [prescription] data" that exists out there that pharmaceutical companies have access to through these third parties. Crossix Solutions, for example, claims to deliver "actionable, timely, authentic Rx and healthcare data to help pharmaceutical marketing teams and healthcare communications companies measure and optimize the impact of their patient adherence and consumer marketing programs."

Sounds good so far. So why can't pharma do match-back studies? You have patients who have opted-in to marketing research and you have access -- through 3rd parties -- to their prescription data. QED as they say.

Not so QED says Clark. "It's more difficult for us," said Clark, "because online most of the time we're collecting just e-mail addresses and not all of the data needed to do the match-back. We also have to make sure from a patient privacy perspective that people understand we would like to use their data for market research purposes and that they clearly opt-in and allow us to do that. The sheer amount of people you need to do a match-back study is a challenge because the online panels are not as large as the offline panels."

I'm not sure if it's a matter of getting the number of study subjects or getting the opt-in to use personal data or both that is the real challenge. I assume if you can get opt-in in offline panels, you should be able to do it with online panels. Also, once you have the opt-in, why can't you get all the personal data you need to do the match-back?

Matt McNally, SVP, media services, Digitas Health, mentioned how they measure channel effectiveness using coupons and BRCs that are uniquely coded to identify the channel source.

"We do that also through our direct response vehicles," said Clark. The real challenge, said Clark, "is when we are trying to do awareness generating or drive to doctor tactics. It's those types of programs we have to find new ways to measure."

Seems like we're close, but still no cigar when it comes to pharma eMarketing ROI measurement!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

ACCME to Pharma Ad Copywriters: No Double Dipping! Stay Out of Industry-Sponsored CME.

The ACCME, which oversees accredited continuing medical education (CME), has been busy trying to keep its head above the swirling waters of pharmaceutical industry-sponsored CME. By that I mean it has made several proposals lately to shore up its rules for keeping bias out of industry-sponsored CME in response to criticisms from all quarters (some critics even suggest that ACCME be abolished! See "Is it time to end pharma sponsored CME?").

Keeping up with all this is Dr. Carlat on his blog. He reports on ACCME's latest proposal, which states: "Persons paid to create, or present, promotional materials on behalf of commercial interests cannot control the content of accredited continuing medical education on that same content."
"The ACCME now finds that there are individuals who are directly involved in the promotion of products and services of commercial interests but who are not employees of the commercial interests, e.g., medical writers who create promotional material for FDA-regulated firms or physicians who are paid by commercial interests to deliver promotional content to other physicians. Some of these same writers may be involved in writing or editing the content of accredited CME activities. Some of these same physicians go on to control the content of accredited CME activities on the same subject for which they have been paid to deliver promotional content. Participants in such activities have asked the ACCME if they are, in effect, ACCME- defined commercial interests – and therefore excluded from controlling the content of CME."
ACCME asks:
  1. Should those who write promotional materials be excluded from having any role in writing CME content?
  2. Should those who teach in promotional activities be excluded from teaching in independent CME activities?
What Do You Think?
I've added these questions to my survey on industry-sponsored CME, which I renamed "Is Pharma-Sponsored CME Biased?"

If you haven't given me your opinion on industry-sponsored CME yet, please take 2 minutes to respond to the survey, which you can find here. If you have already taken the survey and wish to respond to these added questions, you can do that as long as you are using the same computer and have not deleted cookies.

As always, you can remain anonymous or you can identify yourself if you wish to be quoted in a Pharma Marketing News article I plan to write for the October, 2008 issue. I keep all comments confidential and, if I quote someone, I always let them review it before publication.

Meanwhile, enjoy this double-dipping classic:

Top Pharma Contributors to Federal Candidates and Parties

"Follow the money," was the advice Deep Throat gave to Bob Woodward during the Watergate investigation. The same advice will help us understand which presidential candidate -- Obama or McCain -- is preferred by the pharmaceutical industry and the people who work within the industry.

A very useful resource for following the money flowing into the campaign coffers of the Democrat and Republican Parties is the Center for Responsive Politics. And to get an idea of donations by company in the pharmaceutical sector, you should look here. You'll find a table there that looks like this (data as of July 28, 2008; click on image for an enlarged view):

I've converted this data into a chart format, which makes it easier to see certain trends, especially which are the "Blue" (Democrat) companies and which are the "Red" (Republican) companies:

Here's my analysis of Red vs. Blue Pharma Companies:

In the "Red" column are the following companies arranged in order of decreasing % of donations given to Republicans:
  • Starkey Laboratories
  • AmerisourceBergen Corp
  • Abbott Laboratories
  • Schering-Plough Corp
  • McKesson Corp
  • Bristol-Myers Squibb
  • GlaxoSmithKline
  • Novartis AG
  • Merck & Co
  • AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals
  • Boston Scientific Corp
Starkey Labs, which is "a global supplier of hearing aids and products for hearing loss," gave 100% of its $187,980 to Republicans. And all this money was given by individuals in the company, not through PACs (Political Action Committees). Makes sense. McCain probably needs the products that Starkey provides more than Obama does. Or should I say Starkey's older-demographic customers are more likely to prefer McCain over Obama.

In the "Blue" column are the following companies arranged in order of decreasing % of donations given to Democrats:
  • Medline Industries
  • Roche Group
  • Johnson & Johnson
  • Medtronic Inc
  • Baxter International
Hmmm...! Only 5 in this category as opposed to 11 in the Republican camp. Interestingly, a significant portion of J&J's donations come from individuals.

BTW, some of the largest pharma/biotech companies have donated approximately the same amount of money to both political parties. These neither Blue nor Red companies are:
  • Eli Lilly & Co
  • Wyeth
  • Pfizer Inc
  • Amgen Inc
These data are prior to the conventions held by both parties. It will be interesting to see updated data.

My Survey
Meanwhile, my online survey still shows Obama ahead of McCain among US respondents: 54% for Obama, 33% for McCain, 11% undecided. Among US Pharma respondents, the numbers are: 52% for Obama, 29% for McCain, 19% undecided.

If you haven't given me your opinion on Obama vs. McCain yet, please take 2 minutes to respond to the survey, which you can find here. If you have already taken the survey and wish to change your response (especially if you were undecided before and have now made up your mind who to vote for), you can go back and change your response as long as you are using the same computer and have not deleted cookies.

As always, you can remain anonymous or you can identify yourself if you wish to be quoted in a Pharma Marketing News article I plan to write for the October, 2008 issue. I keep all comments confidential and, if I quote someone, I always let them review it before publication.

Note: According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the numbers on this page are based on contributions from PACs, soft money donors, and individuals giving $200 or more. (Only those groups giving $5,000 or more are listed here. Soft money applies only to cycles 1992-2002.) In many cases, the organizations themselves did not donate; rather the money came from the organization's PAC, its individual members or employees or owners, and those individuals' immediate families. Organization totals include subsidiaries and affiliates. All donations took place during the 2007-2008 election cycle and were released by the Federal Election Commission on Monday, July 28, 2008.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

PhRMA Intern and the YouTube Guru

Click on the image to enlarge for easier reading:
Yes, PhRMA is now on YouTube! Actually, it has launched an integrated media campaign called "Sharing Miracles," which includes a Web site (set up to resemble a blog, although it does not accept comments from readers), a Sunday-morning cable TV show, and a YouTube channel -- all featuring celebrity spokespeople like Montel Williams (also PhRMA's Partnership for Prescription Assistance program spokesperson) and Greg Louganis (Olympic diving champion of long ago).

These and other "low-budget" celebrities are augmented by two lesser, even lower-budget, celebrities: PhRMA president & CEO, Billy Tauzin -- who, representing the "thousands of hard-working men and women who develop new medicines to treat chronic diseases," provides on-screen introductions and PhRMA Vice President and PR spokesperson, Ken Johnson -- who provide the voiceovers!

It's interesting that Ken Johnson provides the voiceovers. He may have had some relevant production experience in a former life. I know he has friends in the entertainment industry (see the PhRMA Intern episode "PhRMA Intern Makes Movie Mogul an Offer He Can't Refuse!").

Regarding Montel Williams, you may recall the PhRMA Intern episode "PhRMA Intern v. Montel" in which our heroine saves the world from Montel's "explosive" temper, but fails to convince Billy Tauzin to fire his ass!

You can see the Greg Louganis "Sharing Miracles" video on YouTube here. As of this writing, the video was viewed 284 times. Let's see if this plug can bump that count up.

I submitted the comment "A good series of videos. At last PhRMA engages in Web 2.0 activities!" But I don't see it published -- yet. This may be another case where the pharmaceutical industry dips into Web 2.0, but doesn't really engage in two-way conversation with the public.

It should be noted that PhRMA has not really set up a "channel" on YouTube. Rather, Qorvis Communications TV, the corporate communications agency PhRMA hired to do the videos, has the channel (see here).

Friday, September 05, 2008

Drug Samples: To those that have, it shall be given. The rest pay list price!

Researchers at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center found that "physicians are over three times more likely to prescribe generic medications to uninsured patients when drug samples are not available; however, patients with comprehensive drug coverage (Medicaid) received a high proportion of generic prescriptions regardless of sample availability." (See press release here.)

This reminded me of a passage from Matthew 13:12 -- "For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath."

This "parable of the sower" is appropriate given the role of free samples to "sow" the seeds for new scripts. I also note that a quote from the Bible is appropriate given the organization that employed the researchers!

According to the parable, if you are given a seed and it falls on "good soil" it will grow; if you are given a seed and it falls on "bad soil," it will die.

In this case, uninsured patients -- those that "have not" -- not only get the seed (ie, free samples), but their money is taken away by being prescribed more expensive brand name drugs. Medicaid patients (those that "have") on the other hand, get a break in either case because they are prescribed generics.

What's Your Opinion?
No doubt this study will be used by those who wish to ban free drug samples given to physicians by pharmaceutical sales reps. I have already written about this: see "What's Next: Ban Free Drug Samples?"

Please take a few minutes to respond to the Pharma Marketing News Drug Sampling Survey.

Results of this survey will be summarized the October, 2008, 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.

After taking the survey, you will be able to review a de-identified summary of results.

Is it time to end pharma sponsored CME?

In 2006, 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 Pharma Growth is Bad News for Marketers" for the data.

In the article "Wither CME?", which I wrote almost one year ago, I asked these questions:
  1. Why can’t physicians pay for their CME like many other professionals do?
  2. Why should pharma contribute so much for CME?
  3. Doesn't that naturally lead to biased content?
  4. Shouldn't there be a ban on commercially-funded accredited CME?
Turns out that that last option has received a lot of serious consideration from medical associations, medical schools, and, of course, Congress. The latter spooked ACCME (Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education, which polices CME in the US) to such a degree that it also called for the elimination of commercial support of continuing medical education. ACCME, however, also proposed a "new paradigm" for industry support of CME (see the proposal here).
[Aside: Regarding the ACCME itself, "They should be abolished," said James M. La Rossa, Jr. who is the founder of MedWorks Media Global, LLC, a a publishing company based in Los Angeles, CA. "And that, friends, will be the end of that," La Rossa added. La Rossa has also said, "In truth, the CME business has become rotten to the core." You can find his comments here and here.]
PhRMA's New Code on Interactions with Healthcare Professionals merely puts limits on what pharma sponsors can pay for (no meals or lodging for docs) and says that funding decisions within the sponsoring company should be separate from marketing decisions (see recent Pharma Marketing News article).

In July, 2008, Pfizer announced that it will no longer back CME courses provided by for-profit, third-party companies. It will keep paying for courses offered by med schools, teaching hospitals and medical societies, though.

More recently (September, 2008), in a JAMA Commentary, Arnold S. Relman, MD, Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital, said: "It is time for the leadership of the medical profession to make clear to an increasingly skeptical public that physicians, and not the pharmaceutical industry, are in charge of the education of physicians."

CME Survey Revisited
With all this new focus on CME, I thought it was time to revisit a survey I had run in 2007 and hope my readers will give me some new perspective on the following issues and questions:
  • Referring to single-company sponsored CME, do you believe it is strongly biased in favor of the sponsor's product(s)?
  • Are ACCME guidelines regarding "firewalls" between the commercial and educational interests of a CME provider are effective in preventing bias in pharma-sponsored CME?
  • Should pharma-sponsored CME be eliminated or greatly reduced and other means found for paying to develop CME (eg, direct payment by physicians, government grants, private foundation grants, etc.)?
  • Is industry sponsorship of CME is vital to the improvement of medical outcomes?
  • Is the best way for pharmaceutical companies to sponsor CME is through block grants made to medical schools and/or professional societies?
Please take 2 minutes to answer this survey (click here) 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 the October, 2008, 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. After taking the survey, you will be able to view a summary of de-identifed results to date. Click here) to take the survey.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Pharma for Obama!

So far, Barack Obama is the choice by far of the US pharmaceutical company respondents to my Obama vs. McCain Survey -- 46% of these respondents say they intend to vote for Obama, whereas 27% favor McCain. Another 27% are undecided.

"I'm still waiting to see who McCain picks as his running mate before seriously considering either candidate," said one undecided respondent. "I'm not so passionate one way or another yet to make my decision at this point."

"The stakes on the environment, national security and the overall economy are too high to put them in the hands of McCain who is economically illiterate, pugilistic and will continue the Bush policies," said an Obama fan. "While I think Republicans in general are more favorable to the industry, I believe that intelligent, nuanced policies will be more likely to be championed by Democratics, ones that will preserve IP and foster innovation while enhancing our overall economy and increasing healthcare access for all."

What do you think? Is Obama or McCain better for pharma? Take my survey and vote today!

Meanwhile, we can look at PAC (political action committee) contributions to candidates by the pharmaceutical and other health-related industries to get a better idea which candidates these industries support. Again, Obama is in the lead. See the charts below (click on an image to get an enlarged view for easier reading):

Unfortunately, contributions by PACs may not accurately reflect the total contributions received by candidates. The figures certainly don't include personal contributions by people employed in the healthcare industry.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Pfizer Saves $1,349,432.90 on New Lipitor Ads!

The Wall Street Journal reports that Pfizer will air new Lipitor TV ads that feature a non-celebrity:
"The new television ad, set to debut Tuesday, features a testimonial from heart-attack survivor John Erlendson, a 58-year-old California talent agent. He didn't take a cholesterol-fighting drug before his heart attack last year despite a history of high cholesterol, and his ad urges people in similar situations to be more proactive." (See "Pfizer Drops Celebrity Pitch in New Lipitor Spots").
According to the WSJ article, Erlendson will be paid "a union scale rate," as opposed to $1.35 million that Pfizer paid Dr. Robert Jarvik for Lipitor ads that he famously appeared in (see "Jarvik: A Modern DTC Tragedy").

What exactly is the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) "union scale rate" for TV commercials?

You can't get that information the SAG Web site -- you have to be a member and although I am producing my own video commercials, I am not a card-carrying SAG member.

Using Google, however, I easily found a document from an agent's Web site that outlined the rates for 2006 (see here). For "on-camera principals," the rate is $567.10 (not including an $83.93 pension contribution).

Doing the math, I find that Pfizer will save $1,349,432.90 using Erlendson vs. Jarvik! The actual savings might be less if you factor in the recent increase in SAG union rates won as a result of the recent strike.

Whatever! Pfizer is saving a bundle!

I have a question for Mr. Erlendson: Are you independently wealthy? Are you getting "residuals" in the form of free promotion for yourself and your talent agency?

After all, if Mr. Erlendson can land this gig with Pfizer, he must be a damn good talent agent!
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