Showing posts with label Cafe Pharma. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Cafe Pharma. Show all posts

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Paula Deen & Victoza: Brilliant or Dumb?

OK. I've written so much about Novo Nordisk's deal with celebrity chef Paula Deen that even I am tempted to say "Enough already! Move on." Well, there is one side of this story that I and others have not yet commented on. That is, what do Novo's troops (ie, sales reps) have to say about it? Specifically, do they think this deal will help them sell Novo's type 2 diabetes drug Victoza -- the drug Deen is a spokesperson for? Or will it hurt sales?

To get answers to those questions, I turned to the Novo Nordisk company board on Cafe Pharma (CP) - the notorious but always entertaining and enlightening pharma sales rep message board. I learned about some other issues that the "troops" discussed, including:
  • Heredity vs. Lifestyle as contributing factor
  • Is drug treatment the first option recommended when diagnosed with type 2 diabetes?
  • The role of the American Diabetes Association (ADA)
  • Will Victoza be prescribed off-label for weight loss?
One anonymous commenter,  had this to say:
"This is either the most brilliant marketing strategy ever or the dumbest."
That, of course, remains to be seen.

It's Dumb!
Interestingly, this commenter added some further remarks that offers intriguing insight into the possible strategy of Novo Nordisk's entire diabetes franchise:
"Just think," said this anonymous sales rep, "Paula and her fat fans go from victoza to levemir to novolog. I give her 1 more year and she is on insulin." Not that this rep thinks this is an honorable strategy for Novo to support. "Novo should do the honorable thing here and cancel this deal. Defeat diabetes my ass. They have just done more to cause diabetes than mcd's [McDonald's]. It is like Marlborough Man being a spokesman for Nicorette. Shameful."
Of course, it's possible that this anonymous rep was a rep from a competing pharmaceutical company and not a Novo rep at all. In any case, other commenters had similar things to say, such as:
"Wow. This is a PR disaster. Who were the brains behind this fiasco? Victoza is taking major hits in the media with the whole world now focused on price ($500 a month!) and questions being raised about drug safety and marketing ethics. Novo just bought itself a few million dollars worth of bad publicity. Time to pull the plug to save face."
It's Brilliant!
There were also plenty of posts in defense of the deal:
"Granted, she is still in denial, but she's on Victoza, she's already lost a dress size since starting and it's a Dean family endorsement. Which is even better because it shows it does take a village to help patients with diabetes treat their disease. This is a horrible disease that is difficult to manage. Everyone is playing into Novo's hands with all the press around diabetes and becoming more aware. Novo couldn't pay for all the ads they've gotten over the past week."

"First of all, this whole flap will be short lived. It wont be long before it's been long forgotten. Secondly, PD's hardcore fans couldn't care less about how long she took to reveal her diabetes. If Paula takes Victoza, guess what those hardcore fans are going to ask their doctors to prescribe for them. And there's millions of them too. Most of the critics are selling Novo's management short. Time holds the answer as to what will happen, but my money is on the whole thing being wildly successful.

"the posters who think its ridiculous are the competitors bc they are mad their idiot companies didnt do this first. Its brilliant. Brilliant bc we all know the success rates with Victoza. Our docs rave about it all the time. Theyre not going to write more lantus bc PD was hired by Novo.

"This is brilliant. Do you think Weight Watchers cared when Barkely supposedly trashed their endorsement by saying it was easy money to eat their meals and lose weight? No, it was good TV. This will be for Novo, too. Welcome to big pharma."

From a marketing perspective, is the Novo Nordisk deal with Paula Deen Brilliant or Dumb?
It remains to be seen.

Someone else pointed out that drug treatment is not the only solution for people with Type 2 diabetes ("T2DM"):
"It is not a 'horrible disease' – it is a disease of gluttony and sedentary lifestyle. T2DM is reversible with implementing healthier eating habits and adding exercise to your daily routine. The alliance with Paula Deen (spelled D-E-E-N) suggests that people can continue to eat what they want and take a drug to make everything all better. Don’t try and spin this alliance as social responsibility – your intentions are purely economic in nature."
You'll Hear More About Heredity and Type 2 Diabetes
The lifestyle change solution POV will be something that Novo and Deen will have to combat as they get deeper into this. In fact, they have already pinpointed "heredity" as the most important factor. This was re-iterated in a comment in response to the above:
"Heredity? Have you ever heard of that? But, what do doctors know? After all, you're an anonymous CP poster, so you know it must only be about gluttony and a sedentary lifestyle. Pick up a textbook some might actually learn something."
In response:
"When diagnosed with t2dm, what are the first instructions a doctor should give to their patients according to the ADA? The answer: diet and lifestyle changes. Why is that? Is the ADA wrong? Are doctors wrong for following the ADA guidelines? Why even bother with this step if heredity is such a controlling factor? Your message to people with diabetes suggests that they can't help themselves without the aid of your pharmaceuticals."
Will the ADA be Caught Up in This?
I'll have to check up on what the ADA has to say about first options. I already know that ADA is part of the deal because the organization has said the Deen family will participate in select diabetes health expos the ADA hosts around the country. It has also been reported that Deen will contribute some of her Novo earnings to the ADA, although no specific monetary amounts were mentioned.

Is Weight Loss a Possible Future Indication for Victoza?
One last point concerns weight loss and whether or not Paula Deen will help sell Victoza for that purpose. CP comments relating to that include:
"She will drop 40 lbs over the next year or less and "bang" we have an unofficial weight loss drug. (no indication necessary) Frankly I think its brilliant, she is probably under contract to eat healthier and exercise....and write a a cookbook with healthier versions of her food. We should look forward to seeing her at the next national POA. May I suggest identifying and adding the weight loss clinic docs in your area to your universe, otherwise you will not get paid Bad press now...millions of dollars later. Laughing all the way to Denmark."
Of course, if Novo or any Novo sales rep were caught mentioning weight loss as a indication, they would be breaking the law and subject the company to hefty fines, as this commenter pointed out:
"glad to hear all the weight loss drug talk. Can't wait to see Novo pay all those off label promotion fines"

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Social Media to Congress: "Piss Off!"

I love a Congressional investigation as well as the next guy, especially when it involves purported wrong-doing by pharmaceutical company bigwigs.

The House Committee on Commerce investigation into "who knew what when" about the ENHANCE clinical trial is a case in point. Did bigwigs at Schering-Plough cash in stock options well ahead of the negative news?

As pointed out by whistleblower Peter Rost on BrandweekNRx, at least a few people inside SP knew that ENHANCE was a failure way back in March, 2007 -- about 10 months prior to the public announcement and a month or two before Schering bigwigs -- including president Carrie Cox -- sold stock (see "New evidence indicates Schering-Plough insiders knew the Vytorin trial was "a bust" on March 13, 2007").

These people inside SP were "anonymous" posters to CafePharma. On March 13, 2007, an anonymous CafePharma poster claimed that a "buddy" at "SPRI" -- an abbreviation for the research and development arm of Schering-Plough -- said that the ENHANCE study was a bust. "Adding Zetia to already maxed-out statin is useless," claimed this anonymous poster.

If this person knew, then so did Cox, seems to be the thinking of the Congressional Committee, which sent a letter to Sarah Palmer, CafePharma's Webmaster/mistress, and her ISP asking for the names, addresses, phone numbers, e-mail addresses, and Internet protocol addresses of anyone creating posts prior to January 18, 2008 regarding the ENHANCE clinical trial.

It also requested that CafePharma "not destroy, dispose of, or tamper with any files or records relating to Merck/Schering-Plough and the ENHANCE study."

CafePharma faces a dilemma: should it hand over information it has about "anonymous" posters to the House Committee on Commerce, which requested these names as part of its investigation of "who knew what when" in the ENHANCE investigation? Or should CafePharma tell the committee to "piss off!"?

At first it appears that handing over names, addresses, and e-mail addresses of "anonymous" posters is an oxymoronic endeavor -- anonymous means that kind of data simply is not available. Or does it?

Having had some experience with the dark side of CafePharma (see "Banned from CafePharma!"), I can say that it is amazing what technically-savvy people can learn about "anonymous" posters. CafePharma may know the IP addresses of such posters, which can be used to trace them back to their Internet service providers, which, in turn, will have names, e-mail addresses, and possibly other personal information. You might also be able to trace what web sites anonymous posters visited prior and after posting to CafePharma.

Regardless of what personal information CafePharma has about its posters, I hope it refuses to comply with the Committee's "request." I am not sure what legal rights CafePharma has to refuse to comply, but this request is a serious issue for CafePharma and other "social network" Web sites whose members depend upon the owners to protect their anonymity in the exercise of their free speech rights.

Of course, it isn't it enough for Congress to know that thanks to public postings on CafePharma it is likely that Cox and other SP employees knew of the ENHANCE trial problems well before the public announcement. What Congress wants is some kind of evidence that Cox et al actually did know and used that information to trade on. They want to know who the anonymous posters are so they can be called to testify and name names.

I am not telling CafePharma what to do, but I think anyone who owns a blog or social network that publishes "anonymous" comments should speak up against this request. It's one thing if the information was required for national security or if the postings were death threats, but it's quite another when we are talking about insider trading.

The Committee's request -- if left unchallenged -- could further frighten the pharmaceutical industry away from social media marketing. Already the industry is concerned about what users publish on social media sites -- especially if it contains off-label drug information or adverse events. The worriers don't also need to add Congressional investigations and privacy risks to the list of their concerns.

I propose that the Pharma BlogosphereTM community draft a letter to John Dingell, Chairman of the House Committee on Commerce, protesting the committee's request and defending the right of CafePharma to refuse to hand over private information about its members. Please join the discussion on the Pharma Marketing Network Forum I set up to get some input in creating this letter. Or send me an email:

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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

True Confessions Redux: Another MD Shill for Pharma Outed

Yesterday, I wrote about Dr. Carlat's confession of being a shill for Wyeth (see "Dr. Carlat's True Confession: 199,999 More to Go"). As a follow-up, I decided to see what Carlat is saying on his blog and what drugs reps are saying on Cafe Pharma.

Carlat recounted some feedback under his post "Return the 30K, You Cheap Thief", which was inspired by a comment made to the WSJ Health Blog. In my critique, I never suggested that Carlat give back the money. He did, after all, take time off to do lunch-and-learns. Many reps in the Wyeth Company board over at Cafe Pharma, however, suggest that these gigs usually involve little or no work at all and may even be counterproductive (see below).

Regarding giving the money back, this is Carlat's retort:
"I'd be curious to hear opinions about: A. Whether I should return the dirty money; and B. Where it should go if I can bear to part with it?"
Here's my opinion: If you decide to write a book and get an advance on royalties, I'd say you should donate $30,000 to an appropriate charity or patient support group -- one that does NOT usually get money from the pharmaceutical industry. You can make pretty good promotional hay out of it and easily recoup the $30,000 from additional sales of the book! Maybe I can be your agent...give me a call.

Here are some comments from the "field hands" (aka, Cafe Pharma posters):
"Many hookers and paid escorts have written their memoirs in the past. It will continue. It allows them to 'purge their conscience' and sell themselves in a different area."
Nice to see my ho analogy also used by sales reps. I wonder if there is a little black book out there that names the "johns"? Who are the "johns" anyway? The doctors that were served the lunch and swallowed the pitch, I'd say.

Surprisingly, many reps -- perhaps NOT all of them Wyeth reps -- were happy Carlat wrote his confession:
"I am glad this doctor wrote this article. I, for one, hate hate hate doing speaker programs, especially with the crappy and antiquated slide decks we have. They are a waste of time, resources, money, and since I don't have many access issues, and these slide decks have nothing new in them, what is the freaking point????????"
Clearly, this rep needs to be fired! There's likely to be a great ROI on these lunch-and-learns, as I pointed out in my post yesterday. But it's nice to know this rep hasn't got access issues. Does he/she close deals and get more scripts written?
"I'm glad the good Dr. wrote the story, and hope it causes much more damage to Wyeth's reputation, if that's even possible. Does not matter how many people do it...bribery and fraud is just that, bribery and fraud. I've witnessed it myself, reps knowingly doing speaker programs to line their Dr.'s pockets with cash for a quid pro quo. There is very little educating going on at these programs most don't even adhere to the guidelines Wyeth claims to strictly enforce. Sorry, it’s black/white the way I see it and what I see is crime."
Dr. Norm Sussman is Outed!
As for other physicians confessing their sins, here's what Carlat claims:
"Many physicians wrote their own mini-confessionals about giving drug talks. One doctor, also a reformed Effexor speaker, described a teleconference in which Norm Sussman minimized withdrawal problems with Effexor. In response, the doctor had an "ethical lapse" and couldn't help mentioning to the audience that Lexapro might be an easier drug for primary care doctors to prescribe, much to Sussman's annoyance. The writer eventually quit speaking for Wyeth."
A rep on the CafePharma Wyeth discussion board also outed Sussman:
"As I see it, any practicing physician who does what I do could be viewed as a whore (therefore, making you his pimp!!!). He is being asked to deliver canned information but is sternly discouraged from interpreting this information.

"If anyone should be outed here, it is DR SUSSMAN, KING OF THE WHORES!!! In the world of psychiatry, Dr Sussman is more than willing to wine and dine your most (self) important Drs in his luxurious offices overlooking 5th Ave (unless you work for Eli Lilly!!!) for a substantial. He will pretty much tout your drug (except Prozac and Zyprexa) to just about anybody at anytime (not quite anywhere though, the NYC business is plenty fine for him, although, FL and CA aren't off limits). A few years back he did a program for me (I do not and never have worked for Wyeth). After scheduling the program, he called me back shortly before the program to say that he needed to do a teleconference for Glaxo right after my program and asked if the restaurant had a space for him to do it. Considering his "reputation", how could I say no. Doubledipping. We paid at lest $2k plus a limo out to LI. I soon found out thought that for every Dr who was thrilled to hear Dr Sussman speak, there was a Dr commenting that he was "shilling" for us too and that he was going to tell everyone why "our" drug was so much better than all of the other a-ds. Estimates are that he makes over $500K doing this. That is f**king obscene."
Sorry for editing the language -- as I and Confarta sales rep Charles Charles have noted many times, Cafe Pharma denizens are apt to spew potty words at the drop of a dime:

Friday, May 25, 2007

Dumb Blonde Reps vs. Slovenly Genius Reps

Ed Silverman over at Pharmalot posted a fun little item about a poll that Cafe Pharma is currently running.

Ed asked "Do Good-Looking Reps Do Better?" or rather that was the gist of the poll.

The devil is in the details. Here's what the poll asked:

Which type of rep gets the best results? An average looking rep that knows their products and can sell? or A super attractive rep that is an idiot and can't sell?

Only 16% of respondents chose the super attractive rep option.

Unfortunately, this survey can't possibly yield any meaningful insights.

To sell (ie, "do better" or "get best results"), you first have to get in the door. So, a better question would have been: Do attractive reps get better access to physicians than do slovenly, but knowledgeable, enthusiastic piglets?

I think a lot more than 16% would answer "Yes" to that!

Another, more meaningful question would have been: Do reps -- attractive, plain, or sloven -- who bear gifts -- pizza, sandwiches, cupcakes -- get better access than those who come empty-handed?

Again, I think the pizza-delivery rep would have no problem getting in the door to most doctor's offices.

Good looks and pizza are very visible attributes, in plain sight. You see the cleavage, you open the door. You see the pizza, you open the door. It's Pavlovian!

Product knowledge and enthusiasm, on the other hand, are invisible. How does the doc (receptionist actually) know if the rep is knowledgeable about products? Only if the doc/receptionist lets him/her in the door and let's the rep speak.

But you can't get in the door without the cleavage or without the pizza!

For the knowledgeable Yossarian reps out there, It's a Catcha 22 ah!
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