Friday, January 07, 2011

Amgen Blows Its Marketing Budget on Phil Mickelson Campaign

Back in August 2010, I asked "Is Phil Mickelson Shilling for Enbrel?" (see this post). My question was prompted by a couple of "news" stories, one of which proclaimed "PGA Championship 2010, Whistling Straits: Phil Mickelson Has Psoriatic Arthritis - Uses Enbrel To Help Manage Condition."

The story also included 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."

That's quite a claim! If Phil made such a claim while being a paid spokesperson for ENBREL, he would have probably violated FDA regulations regarding unsubstantiated claims. He also would have violated FTC regulations regarding celebrity endorsements and testimonials by not disclosing "material connections" (payments or free products) between advertisers and endorsers – connections that consumers would not expect.

Well, Phil IS a shill for ENBREL after all! I missed this November 2010 AMGEN/PFIZER press release that made the announcement. In case that press release is no longer available, here's what it said:
Amgen Inc. (Nasdaq: AMGN), Pfizer Inc. (NYSE: PFE) and world-class professional golfer Phil Mickelson, have entered into a partnership to share Phil's experience with his diagnosis of psoriatic arthritis and treatment with Enbrel(R) (etanercept), and to encourage patients with similar symptoms to visit their doctor for proper assessment and care.

"This partnership with Amgen and Pfizer is important because being a psoriatic arthritis patient has motivated me to share my story," said Phil Mickelson. "I hope to encourage other patients to work with their doctors, learn about their condition and take action so that they have an opportunity to get back to some of the things that matter most to them."

Psoriatic arthritis is a form of arthritis caused by an overactive immune system that can affect not only the body's joints but also the skin. Approximately 600,000 Americans may have psoriatic arthritis. The main joint symptoms of psoriatic arthritis are pain, stiffness and swelling. Rheumatoid arthritis patients experience similar symptoms, however there are important differences between the two conditions, making it important to see a doctor.

Amgen and Pfizer were inspired by Mickelson's approach to managing his condition and by his continued drive to maintain his health. Those same qualities have kept him on top of the competitive world of golf and this is why the companies are excited to be partnering with him. Amgen and Pfizer believe his perseverance in the face of adversity will encourage patients to also work with their doctors to manage their condition and help them get back on course.

Further details and timing of future partnership initiatives will be announced in 2011.
I can't wait for these "further details" to learn more.

One thing I did learn from an insider is this: Amgen cannot afford to sponsor "a cheap and effective Web and cell phone-based patient adherence solution" because it has blown its entire marketing budget on the Phil Mickelson campaign.

It's worth more to AMGEN -- maybe PFIZER too -- to get the ENBREL brand associated with a celebrity and a golf tournament than it is to support patients who are already taking the drug. Considering that the demographic that is attracted to Phil -- mostly older, more affluent men -- it's also a slap in the face to more typical psoriasis sufferers who probably can't afford ENBREL in the first place!


  1. No ache's and pains. WOW!!! I'd say this has a touch of off label too.

  2. Can't say I disagree with this assessment. Some companies simply don't think through the impact of putting their full might behind a celebrity campaign. Unfortunately, many agents that broker these deals have become so money hungry -- they know that pharma has big dollars to spend -- that they really take advantage. I've seen budgets double and triple all based simply on the greed of the "many" agents and brokers involved in putting together just one deal. It's an unfortunate result but it happens all of the time.

    Nancy Caravetta
    Rx Entertainment

  3. Anonymous10:47 AM

    Who are you to question Phil's assessment on how he feels? Why don't you just come out and say you think he is lying? Who made you the king and in control of how everyone is supposed to handle their arthritis? Obviously Phil has found something that works, despite your desire to see him writhing in pain.

  4. Sorry, Mrs. Mickelson, but I think your husband promoted ENBREL by name before he was even paid in order to get the endorsement. Read my lips (or at least my post): It has nothing to do with how I think people -- including celebrities -- should handle their arthritis or a desire to see them "writhing in pain." My concern is how celebrities shill products for profit.

  5. Anonymous1:42 PM

    "My concern is how celebrities shill products for profit"

    Don't you mean your jealousy? It really is quite unbecoming.

  6. No, I don't mean that. I mean what I say.

    But let me elaborate -- my concern is celebrities who shill for drugs that have dangerous side effects without revealing that he may have a financial interest in the product.

    When Phil first made his statements about ENBREL he may or may not have technically signed a contract, but it was obviously meant to get the work -- a demonstration of what he could do. Now that he is featured on ENBREL TV ads, everyone knows he is a paid spokesperson. I have no problem with that, especially that now his commercial speech is regulated by the FDA and he can no longer make outlandish statements such as "I have no aches and pains. My back feels great. I feel stronger and more flexible than I've ever been."

  7. Anonymous4:25 PM

    After suffering for years with psoriasis and then psoriatic arthritis, I started taking Enbrel. Now, when the subject comes up, I tell people that stuff really works for me. My skin is clear and my pains are gone.
    The money doesn't matter. When one is afflicted with a disease for which there is no cure and is suffering then finds something that works incredibly well one wants to share their success.
    I think the attention Phil has brought to the disease helps people who have it feel better about it and helps bring attention to a disease from which 600,000 Americans suffer. If Phil now gets free product or money, good for him.
    If it increases sales, great. That's less people suffering and more money Amgen and Pfizer can pour back into research.

  8. As a PsA sufferer myself, you seek a remedy, period. PsA is a chronic, painful and life debiliating disease and if not Enbrel, Phil would have been prescribed another biologic.

    Phil has brought a great deal of awareness to PsA, which is fantastic. Hopefully this will lead to more research funding and finding a cure.

    Enbrel has been proven to be effective in relieving the symptoms of PsA including progression of joint deterioration. It works and I could care less if Phil is acting as a "shill" by promoting the drug. I'm sure, in a heartbeat, that he'd trade anything not to have PsA.

    John Mack; you're a big douche anyway and who gives a shit about you or what you say. Get a life, loser.


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