Thursday, August 12, 2010

Is Phil Mickelson Shilling for Enbrel?

The golf world was stunned by Tiger Woods' recent poor performance. Another bit of "stunning" news hit the golf world yesterday when the #2 ranked duffer Phil Mickelson announced that he suffers from Psoriatic Arthritis and is being treated with Enbrel. See "Phil Mickelson Arthritis: Will Play At PGA Whistling Straights".

The New York Times also ran a story: "Immune Disorder Could Be an Enduring Test for Mickelson".

Both these articles mentioned that he was being treated with Enbrel, a drug jointly marketed by AMGEN & PFIZER. The first article I cited includes the subtitle "PGA Championship 2010, Whistling Straits: Phil Mickelson Has Psoriatic Arthritis - Uses Enbrel To Help Manage Condition" and includes this quote from Phil: "I have no aches and pains. My back feels great. I feel stronger and more flexible than I've ever been."

Quite an "unsolicited" celebrity endorsement! Amgen/Pfizer could never quote what Phil said on its Enbrel website as in the following completely fabricated (by me) screen shot:

By the way, although you probably cannot see it in Phil's press conference image shown above, his eyes are completely BLOODSHOT, which indicates to me that he is taking something other than Enbrel to ease the pain (see larger image here).

The New York Times helped Enbrel's cause by supplying the following dire statistics about this medical condition: "As many as 7.5 million people in the United States have psoriasis, according to the National Psoriasis Foundation, and about 30 percent of those with psoriasis develop psoriatic arthritis. While psoriasis often appears between the ages of 15 and 25, the arthritis symptoms usually appear later, often between 30 and 50. When it does, there is no rhyme or reason as to which joints will hurt at any given time."

I am willing to bet that this bit of information came straight from AMGEN/PFIZER's PR people.

It probably did NOT come from the "nonprofit Psoriasis Cure Now" group, which issued a press release entitled "Phil Mickelson's Arthritis Shocks Golf World, Psoriasis Cure Now Says a Reminder That Psoriatic Arthritis Is a Serious Disease." That group, which includes Amgen and Pfizer as sponsors, claimed ONLY 1 million people (less than half the number cited in the NYT article) in the US have psoriatic arthritis. "... cases range from mild to what Phil Mickelson described this week. Fortunately, the man on the edge of being ranked the world's number one golfer is taking Enbrel, a biologic treatment that has transformed the lives of many people with psoriasis, psoriatic arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and other immune system diseases."

My question is this: Is Phil Mickelson being paid as a spokesperson by Amgen or Pfizer either directly or through Psoriasis Cure Now?

I have surveyed readers about the "Use of Patient Testimonials in DTC & Social Media Advertising" (see survey here) and have also written about it in Pharma Marketing News (see "Real Patient Testimonials: An Effective Social Media Marketing Strategy"; use code 'SMOD239' to download it FREE).

P.S. Does Phil have a Twitter account? Will he do branded tweets like racecar driver Charlie Kimball has done for Levemir? (see “Novo Nordisk's Branded (Levemir) Tweet is Sleazy Twitter Spam!”).

P.P.S. Before you go off on a rant, let  me just say that I admire Phil Mickelson -- unless, of course, he is having an extramarital affair we do not know about! I also like Charlie Kimball and Sally Field and each and every pharma celebrity product endorser!


  1. Anonymous9:35 AM

    I can guarantee you that Phil is not a paid spokesperson for Centocor/JNJ, since Enbrel is Amgen/Pfizer's product. You are mixing your TNF inhibitors...

  2. When I first posted this, I mistakenly identified Centocor Ortho Biotech as the company responsible for marketing Enbrel. Within a few minutes, Craig Stoltz, Director of Communications at Centocor, called me and pointed out the mistake.

    I wish to apologize to Centocor for making this mistake because I know how fast information -- and misinformation -- can travel on the Internet and especially via social media like this Blog and Twitter.

    Kudos to Craig and his PR people for quickly noticing this error and also quickly reaching out to me directly to correct it.

  3. Look at that awful photoshop of his cap! Oh my .. quite something!

  4. Yes, but I did NOT Photoshop those bloodshot eyes!

  5. Anonymous1:16 PM

    What are you insinuating regarding his eyes?

  6. Either he had a late night with the girls or as I mention in the post, he may be taking some powerful pain killers that are doping him up.

    1. Anonymous9:53 PM

      First of all, You have no idea what Psoriatic Arthritis does to your body. The fatigue that it causes is unbelievable. That could account for the blood shot eyes. Second, he is most likely taking Methotrexate with along with the Enbrel. You have liver tests every 2 months while taking Methotrexate. I doubt very seriously he is abusing other drugs. The thing that should be upsetting people the most about Mr. Mickelson is he is pushing a drug that 1% of the population can afford. Enbrel is very expensive. Like 2200 a month! There is some assistance help, however that does not always work with insurance. Phil Mickelson does not advocate for the Arthritis foundation which helps lobby for cheaper meds. This is the outrage people, NOT the blood shot eyes.

  7. Anonymous9:07 PM

    I have had Psoriatic Arthritis since 1993 and love playing golf. I was 32 years old then. He is very lucky that Enbrel and other biologics are available as they were not available for me when I was finally diagnosed in 1998. I believe I started on Enbrel approx 2001. It has been a miracle drug for me as I would have had knee replacement and be in constant extreme pain. For the red eyes the Enbrel takes care of all the pain and I will guess it is the sun with no sunglasses. Who cares if he is a spokesperson for Enbrel in the future as these drugs are amazing in what they do for the swelling and pain.

  8. He, and perhaps you too, should reveal who - if anyone - pays the tab for such endorsements.

  9. Anonymous3:35 PM

    He has bloodshot eyes therefore he has to be on powerful painkillers. That is one of the most idiotic assumptions I have ever heard. Let's see causes of bloodshot eyes include allergies, fatigue, dryness, exposure to sun among others. He held this press conference after playing a practice round so maybe his red eyes were caused by 4-5 hours of golf on a hot, dry, windy and sandy golf course.

    And if you are going to quote put the quote into context. The "I'm feeling better than ever" quote had nothing to do with enbrel
    the entire section read:
    By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM Chief of Correspondents

    KOHLER, Wis. -- The irony of it all was that Phil Mickelson, who was days away from his 40th birthday, had just been telling his wife Amy that he had never felt so good.

    "I have no aches and pains," Mickelson recalls saying. "My back feels great. I feel stronger and more flexible than I've ever been."

    Several days later as his preparations for the U.S. Open intensified, though, Mickelson started waking up in a world of pain. His Achilles throbbed. His left index finger felt like it was sprained, and so did his right wrist.

  10. Anonymous,

    I did NOT say "HAS to be on painkillers." I just speculated that he MAY be. Which you can read above -- you can read, can't you?

    (BTW, call me an "idiot" or some other name and next time I don't approve your comment for posting, if you have a next time).

    I fail to see how you "quote in context" changes anything. The fact that it is used in the same story where the drug is mentioned sends me signals that this is a paid promotion.

    BTW, some of Amgen's competitors also are wondering if Mickelson is shilling for Enbrel.

  11. I also have taken Enbrel but stopped after 3 years. Wanted to see if the PA was in remission. Luckily it was.

    Thought the same thing when I read the Michelson article. After all, golfers do nothing unless there is a sponsorship.
    Think we will see Phil join in with Joe Namath as celebrity edorsers.

  12. Anonymous8:49 PM

    Hey John, Do you think the doctors at the Mayo Clinic who prescribed it are also getting paid?

  13. Anonymous,

    Sure the docs are getting paid, but do you mean paid by AMGEN/PFIZER? Not unless they make statements to the press like "feel stronger and more flexible than ever."

    Doctors can also be paid "advisors" & "consultants" to pharma.

    I'm not sure how docs administer Enbrel -- probably the drug is stockpiled by doc and they make a profit by charging patients more than what it cost them to obatin the drug. AMGEN/PFIZER may give Mayo a steep discount price to increase the spread and reward docs who prescribe it. The PR of Mayo docs prescribing a drug is worth it!

  14. Anonymous3:01 PM

    So when a reporter asks him what he takes, is he supposed to say "its a secret"? Who cares if he tells the world what medication(s) he is on and if they are working for him or not? I would guess most people want to know. What have you got against Mickelson? Are you a frustrated pro-golfer-wanna-be? Jealousy does not become you.

  15. Ha Ha, that's funny! The reporter may have asked him what meds he takes, but did the reporter also ask him to say "I have no aches and pains. My back feels great. I feel stronger and more flexible than I've ever been." That's the quote that got me riled up.

    The point is that as soon as Phil became a PAID spokesperson for ENBREL, he could not say these things because he became an extension of the brand and subject to FDA regulations. But at the time he said the above, I suspect he was giving his future benefactors a freebie! We don't know how long the negotiations were going on before the deal was signed, but this story could have been arranged to seal the deal.

    Unfortunately, I am not a golfer. Actually, I like and respect Mickelson. He is a role model for family values in men and, in that regard, is miles above Tiger Woods.

    I lost a little respect for him, however, when I learned about this. I don't mind that he is a spokesperson for a drug or any other product. But he went too far to please his sponsors and I seriously doubt someone with his medical problem can sincerely claim "I feel stronger and more flexible than I've ever been", no matter what drug he's on -- unless it's a DEA-controlled substance.

  16. Anonymous4:00 PM

    " But he went too far to please his sponsors and I seriously doubt someone with his medical problem can sincerely claim "I feel stronger and more flexible than I've ever been", no matter what drug he's on -- unless it's a DEA-controlled substance."

    Now I get it. He has to be all oxy-ed up or there is no way he could feel good? Dude you do a lot of assuming and mind reading. Have you ever known Phil to be a liar? He has also talked about his fitness regimen and diet improvements. How do you know he doesn't feel great? You keep throwing out could-haves and might-haves. Until you have FACTS it would serve you well to keep it zipped and give Phil credit for doing what it takes to combat this awful disease.

  17. Sorry, I'm not a fact checker. I ask questions and speculate -- true. But so do the competitors of ENBREL when they see this stuff.

  18. Anonymous9:34 AM

    It's obvious that you've never had the awful pain that is associated with an autoimmune disorder that affects your joints. If you did, and you were unfortunate enough to be treated with just anti-inflammatories and other meds that didn't work and suddenly started treating with the TNF/Biologic products like Enbrel, you'd know how thrilled Phill must have been to not be in so much pain. I know all too well. I'm only 44 yrs old and was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis more than 20yrs ago, before Enbrel, Humira or like drugs. So I had real pain with no real relief and then along comes Humira and it was a life saver and it completely took my pain away. So I believe every single word he said because he was saying it because that is the way he felt. And if a medication made me feel that way, I would sign up to be a spokesperson for them in a heartbeat!

  19. I don't believe I said Phil was a liar. The fact that you believe every thing he said is a testament to celebrity testimonials and the reason why pharma marketers love 'em so much. The issue really has to do with transparency with regard to celebrity/pharma relationships. I don't believe I've seen any statement from Phil where he says he's a paid spokesperson for ENBREL, although an article written in Arthritis Today that featured Phil DID mention it. Have you read that article?

  20. Anonymous9:53 AM

    I suffer from Psoriatic Arthritis and recently saw the add for Enbrel with Phil. I listened to the commercial several times and nowhere did it actually say he was taking Enbrel, it is simply implied by association. I am looking for something to treat my symptoms so I had hoped he really was using Enbrel with success for his pain.

  21. Anonymous7:17 AM

    A little research on PA would be helpful - the red eyes could have been from inflammation of the eye caused by psoriatic arthritis. It's actually pretty common in people who have the disease. I know you said it "might" be painkillers but seriously all you had to do was check out PA symptoms on webmd or Judy google it. My point is that if you're gonna list what it might be you should be responsible enough to check out what else it might be or just not comment on it at all.

  22. Thanks. While what you say may be true, what I have said might also be true. This is a blog, not a class exercise in journalism! My aim here is to express MY opinion, and not to included everyone else's opinion or even all relevant facts. Everyone else's opinions -- including yours -- and facts are welcome as comments.

  23. I have had auto immune arthritis , Rheumatoid arthritis and four other forms for over 25 years. I had lived a life of unbearable pain. My life was like a carousel ride that I could watch but could never get on. I gained 100 pounds and then lost it again thank God. I went from no and I do mean no quality of life to the perfect life thanks to the miracle of the biologic medication, Enbrel . A little over five years ago Enbrel was pretty much my last shot , even though I was afraid of the side effects I was more afraid that my last dance on this earth was near. I am lucky as of yet no side effects. I had been on nearly ever med that was approved by the FDA for RA and nothing worked. By the end of the second week of Ebrel injections I felt a huge difference by the end of three months I felt 20 years old. Now five plus years later. I have a new normal life. I have traveled the US and Canada not only telling my story but teaching others how to cook and live a new normal life with arthritis . Surviving arthritis is a way of life for me. I used to wish I would have been told about Enbrel before the damage had occurred to my joints , but truthfully my life has actually been a blessing due to all the amazing arthritis survivors I have met on my arthritis journey. I am not saying I like having arthritis , but I am saying its OK that I do. By me being sick I was able to not only save my own Granddaughter from losing her life or at the very least her leg, but I have helped more people than I can even count. Is that not what life is about caring, loving and helping others as yourself find happiness and bliss. I can thank Enbrel Am gen and Pfizer for helping me to help others. As for his eyes being red and I realize you only peculated that they MAY be red from another med. But maybe I can shed some light. Those of us with auto immune disorders have problems with our tear ducts not producing enough fluid which in turn causes severe dry eye. As you know dry eye causes redness. I am new to your blog and I really enjoy it. I did not want to upset you in any way . I am simply offering another option to his eye.

  24. Phil needs some media coaching. When he is staring rigidly into the camera, he is a wooden, unblinking, copy reading, deer in the headlights robot. When looking off camera, his entire body relaxes into a much more natural posture.

  25. Phil needs some media coaching. When he is staring rigidly into the camera, he is a wooden, unblinking, copy reading, deer in the headlights robot. When looking off camera, his entire body relaxes into a much more natural posture.


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