Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News
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Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News
Pharmaguy curates and provides insights into selected drug industry news and issues.
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Docs Take Pharma Money to Hype Cancer Drugs on Twitter & Don't Disclose It!

Docs Take Pharma Money to Hype Cancer Drugs on Twitter & Don't Disclose It! | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News |

Some cancer doctors use Twitter to promote drugs manufactured by companies that pay them, but they almost never disclose their conflicts of interest on the social media platform, a new study shows.


“This is a big problem,” said senior author Dr. Vinay Prasad, a professor at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland. “Doctors are directly telling patients about their views on drugs, and financial conflict plays a role. But they’re not telling patients they have a conflict.”


Prasad and his colleagues analyzed the tweets and income of blood cancer specialists who posted regularly on Twitter and received at least $1,000 from drug manufacturers in 2014.


Of the 156 hematologist-oncologists in the study, 81 percent mentioned at least one drug from a company that gave them money, and 52 percent of their tweets mentioned the conflicted drugs, according to a study reported in a letter in The Lancet.


Earlier this year, Prasad published his first study on tweeting doctors. Nearly 80 percent of more than 600 U.S. hematologist-oncologists who tweeted had a conflict, his report in JAMA Internal Medicine found.


Celebrities use the hashtag #sponsored when they tweet about products from companies that pay them, Prasad said.


“Maybe we can learn something from the celebrities here,” he said.

rosywills's comment, September 22, 2017 4:01 AM
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Giving J&J an Ethics Prize is Like Giving Strom Thurmond a Civil Rights Award

Giving J&J an Ethics Prize is Like Giving Strom Thurmond a Civil Rights Award | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News |

"Should a drug company that’s agreed to pay billions in criminal and civil fines for illegally marketing its drugs to children and dementia patients be honored with an ethics prize?"


Um, no.


The company is Johnson & Johnson, which has of course paid out a lot of cash in federal penalties for fraudulent marketing. That's not a problem for an organization called Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics, or FASPE, which is honoring the company next month with an award for "ethical leadership." Art Caplan of NYU will be presenting the award. If you'd like to attend, you can get prime seating for your entire group for a mere $50,000.


Sheila Kaplan of Stat News has the story, but sadly, it's behind a paywall. Here is an excerpt:


FASPE Chairman David Goldman, an attorney in New York, said he was aware of the pharma giant’s various ethical tangles, but believes the company has moved beyond them. “We do think they’ve acknowledged their failures and taken the appropriate steps to resolve them,” he said. “They know what they’ve done; we talked to them about it and they’ve taken the right action.”


The award will be accepted by Dr. Joanne Waldstreicher, J & J’s chief medical officer. Goldman said she was “as committed to the ethics program and ethical behavior as anybody who we’ve seen.” He added: “We think we’ve got this right.”


Others disagree, noting that in 2013, J&J and its subsidiaries agreed to pay $2.2 billion to resolve criminal and civil allegations of improperly promoting several prescription drugs, including paying kickbacks to physicians. That was one of the largest health care fraud settlements in US history. The company has also lost recent product liability cases involving allegations of its talcum powder causing ovarian cancer.


“It’s like giving Strom Thurmond a civil rights prize, or Wells Fargo an award for business ethics,” said Dr. Carl Elliott, a bioethicist at the University of Minnesota. “Of all the potential people or organizations to honor with an ethics award, why pick a company that has just paid a $2.2 billion federal penalty for fraud?”

Pharma Guy's insight:

Further reading:

  • “Johnson & Johnson Guilty Again! Ordered to Pay $1 Billion in Putative Damages, the Largest This Year”; 
  • “The $70 Million Breast Job: That's What J&J Must Pay to Male Teen Who Took Risperdal and Developed Large Breasts”; 
  • “America’s Most Admired Lawbreaker”;
  • "How Gorsky Drove 46% - 66% of Risperdal Sales for Off-Label Use"; 
  • “J&J Pleads Guilty for Knowingly Selling Tainted Children's Tylenol. A Failure of Corporate Accountability”; 
  • “J&J #Pharma Earnings Up 18.7% Despite Being Top Fined Drug Company!”; 
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Pharma Physicians Overwhelmingly Favor Clinical Trial Data Transparency

Amid ongoing debate over the extent to which clinical trial data should be divulged, a new survey finds that an overwhelming majority of members of the Royal College of Physicians in the U.K. believe that such information should be disclosed and accessible.

95 percent say all trials should be registered; 89% says increased publication of results, including those that are negative, will lead to better medicines and patient healthcare; 81% agree that a “moral duty” exists for drug makers to make completed data available to trial participants, the public and the scientific community; and 87% says increased scrutiny of data will lead to better science and research.

The survey, however, indicates that, while physicians are overwhelmingly supportive of greater transparency, they are also cognizant of industry concerns. For instance, just 18% believe all trial data should be placed on a central, publicly accessible database with no limitation to access. Still, 61% says either current regulatory bodies or a newly established independent body should act as a gatekeeper.

Pharma Guy's insight:

It should be noted that these physicians are not representative of general practitioners. The majority of them work internationally as clinical pharmacologists, clinical research physicians, medical affairs physicians and regulators across a wide range of organizations - 59% of the survey respondents said they worked for a pharmaceutical company (52%) or a biotechnology company (7%). 

It should also be noted that only 10% of respondents work predominantly in the U.S. Perhaps the AMA should survey its members on this issue.

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Johnson & Johnson’s Legal Woes Continue to Escalate as DOJ Targets Its Rx Drug Marketing Practices

Johnson & Johnson’s Legal Woes Continue to Escalate as DOJ Targets Its Rx Drug Marketing Practices | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News |

As if Johnson & Johnson didn’t have enough legal woes already, with the mounting number of cases claiming a link between its talcum powder and ovarian cancer (read “J&J Bites the Talc-powder Dust in Another Trial - Ordered to Pay $110 Million”;, the pharma giant now faces a fresh round of investigations into its marketing practices.


In a quarterly filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, J&J disclosed new investigations by the U.S. Justice Department and the U.S. Attorney's Office in Massachusetts. The probes target arthritis drugs Remicade and Simponi, hepatitis C treatment Olysio and psoriasis drug Stelara.


Most recently, in April, J&J was subpoenaed by the Massachusetts district court, which is seeking documents related to copayment-support programs the company is offering for Olysio, Simponi and Stelara, according to the SEC filing. Investigators are seeking information about how J&J reports the prices of those products to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and how it discloses rebate payments to the state’s Medicaid agencies.


J&J had previously been pulled into a separate Massachusetts investigation that involves several pharmaceutical companies. The district attorney’s office has been collecting information about ties between drug companies and nonprofits that help fund prescription purchases for Medicare patients. The office has been doling out subpoenas over the last two years, targeting Biogen, Celgene, Regeneron, Gilead and others.


In February, Pfizer disclosed in its annual SEC filing that it received two subpoenas seeking information about its relationship with Patient Access Network Foundation and other nonprofit groups that provide copay assistance to underinsured patients.


J&J hasn’t disclosed which charitable organizations the district attorney’s office asked about, but all such relationships have come under fire recently. That’s because it’s against the law for pharmaceutical companies to link their products with charitable organizations and to offer direct copay subsidies to patients covered by government-run insurance plans.


Further Reading:

  • “Giving J&J an Ethics Prize is Like Giving Strom Thurmond a Civil Rights Award”;
  • “Johnson & Johnson Guilty Again! Ordered to Pay $1 Billion in Putative Damages, the Largest This Year”;
  • “The $70 Million Breast Job: That's What J&J Must Pay to Male Teen Who Took Risperdal and Developed Large Breasts”;
  • “America’s Most Admired Lawbreaker”;
  • "How Gorsky Drove 46% - 66% of Risperdal Sales for Off-Label Use";
  • “J&J Pleads Guilty for Knowingly Selling Tainted Children's Tylenol. A Failure of Corporate Accountability”;
  • “J&J #Pharma Earnings Up 18.7% Despite Being Top Fined Drug Company!”;
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The "Big Pharma" Game Tackles Ethical Issues of Drug Industry

The "Big Pharma" Game Tackles Ethical Issues of Drug Industry | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News |

Tim Wicksteed says his goal in developing the PC game Big Pharma is "to fairly portray both the people who work in this industry as well as those who are hurt by it."

According to Wicksteed, at the heart of Big Pharma, is the question, "are the goals of running a profitable business ethically compatible with the goal of making people healthy -- We don't try to answer the question, just ask it."

In the pharmaceutical business, says Wicksteed, major clinical trials to prove the safety and efficacy of drugs don't have to be published if the drug manufacturer, which sponsors the study, doesn't like the results. The industry's patent systems let companies maintain monopolies on particular treatments for up to 20 years -- "during which they can effectively hold the lives of patients to ransom, charging them whatever they want," says Wicksteed.

"Then you have the moral grey areas which result when you try to align the goals of running a profitable business with those of making people healthy," Wicksteed explains. "Life-saving drugs are shunned in favor of ones which treat (but importantly do not cure) chronic illnesses; companies are incentivized to simply copy their competitors and tweak the formulas rather than create new cures; and treatments for rich Westerners are prioritized over those sorely needed by the poorest communities around the world."

"These last ones are some of my favorites because they sound horrific but strangely understandable," he continues. "If you think about these companies on a human scale, you can imagine the people working for them, under intense pressure from their boss to hit their targets, and when you put yourself in their shoes can you really, I mean really say you would do things differently? That's the question Big Pharma asks of its players."

In the game, players can run clinical trials with "gagging clauses" in place which allow them to pull results or stop trials early to exploit statistical anomalies that make their drug look good. Players and AI competitors race for patents that lead to market monopolies, but can also evade patents through subtle formula tweaks. Players can also change the strength of drugs so that they alleviate symptoms but don't eliminate causes, meaning lower revenue per product -- but demand is maintained.

"One of the more interesting learning outcomes should come from the scenario editor. This will allow players to tweak the parameters of the simulation and then play a game to see their effect," he adds. "Imagine a world where pharma companies were taxed heavily but grants given to incentivize new research. Or one where gagging clauses are banned by law. In Big Pharma you can see the effects these policies might have for yourself."

Pharma Guy's insight:

Hmmm...Now that I know the details of play, this game looks a lot more interesting than when I first heard of it (see here). The goal of this game is quite different than SYRUM, a Facebook game developed by a drug company (see BI to Launch Beta Version of its Syrum FaceBook Game on September 13, 2012). The objective of Syrum is to "save the world, one disease at a time, by harvesting molecules (a little like Farmville) and then using them as trading cards to play against diseases (a little like Pokemon). A player must first investigate molecular compounds at a research desk before putting them to the test in the laboratory, then conduct clinical trials and, if successful, advance a treatment to market"

As of this date (24 Oct 2014), Syrum has not been launched in the U.S. 


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Ad agencies “intend to do right” by Wikipedia, But Are They?

Ad agencies “intend to do right” by Wikipedia, But Are They? | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News |

Following a roundtable discussion earlier this year, a number of communications firms and professional bodies have issued a statement on their commitment to Wikipedia and its continued credibility.

Published on Wikipedia, the statement was backed by more than 30 leading firms, including Ogilvy & Mather, FleishmanHillard and Weber Shandwick. Other signatories active in the healthcare sector include Porter Novelli, Edelman and the Chandler Chicco Companies.

The statement was also supported by professional organisations the Chartered Institute of Public Relations, the Institute for Public Relations and the Council of Public Relations Firms.

“We recognise Wikipedia's unique and important role as a public knowledge resource,” said the statement, acknowledging the growth of the website as the first port of call for patients and healthcare professionals when it comes to healthcare information.

“We also acknowledge that the prior actions of some in our industry have led to a challenging relationship with the community of Wikipedia editors,” it added, before going on to commit to abide by the following principles:

  • To seek to better understand the fundamental principles guiding Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects
  • To act in accordance with Wikipedia's policies and guidelines, particularly those related to 'conflict of interest'
  • To abide by the Wikimedia Foundation's terms of use
  • To the extent we become aware of potential violations of Wikipedia policies by our respective firms, to investigate the matter and seek corrective action, as appropriate and consistent with our policies
  • Beyond our own firms, to take steps to publicise our views and counsel our clients and peers to conduct themselves accordingly.
Pharma Guy's insight:

IMS Health should sign on too: A Wikipedia "group" called WikiCorrect-Health, which claims to train "pharma companies on how to use Wikipedia ethically and also legally" was/is acting in stealth mode.

It appears, however, that the group is not behaving ethically. They have so far not revealed who they are but claim to be "a team of 5" at this point. It is against Wikipedia policy for multiple people to use a single account. Therefore, whoever they are, WikiCorrect-Health lacks transparency and is NOT operating "legally" by Wikipedia standards. And they get paid by pharma to help the industry "use Wikipedia ethically and also legally???

After reading my blog post -- "Is Pharma Working with Wikipedia to Ensure Its Drug Information is Accurate and Up-to-Date?" -- Gary Monk suggested that "one or more of them [WikiCorrect-Health] may work for IMS Health, in which case there is again a serious lack of transparency."

I think Gary Monk is correct about this group being IMS Health. Here's why:

In a recent report, IMS reminded us that Wikipedia articles on health issues are "in flux" and that there is a need for knowledgeable editors to keep the information as current and unbiased as possible. "There is yet to be established a broad approach to funneling the vast resources of healthcare institutions, the pharmaceutical industry, regulators and patient groups into the information that is being used by millions of patients," said IMS.

IMS further said that "none of the traditional stakeholders for patient information – such as regulators and pharmaceutical companies - is actively engaged in the development of information or in ensuring its correctness."

My guess is that after (or even before) reading the IMS report, PhRMA and/or several pharma companies hired IMS Health to be its "eyes and ears" and sometimes its "editor" on Wikipedia. The fact that they are doing this in stealth mode, however, is not cool.

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