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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Only 2% of Health Journalists Think Pharma PR & Communications Are Trustworthy

Only 2% of Health Journalists Think Pharma PR & Communications Are Trustworthy | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News |

Healthcare communications is "on life support", with almost nine in 10 journalists unhappy with the information they receive.


New research out today reveals a huge gulf between the information provided by drug companies and what journalists actually need to create their content.


The survey, conducted by digital communications platform ISEBOX, reveals that 85 per cent of health journalists view healthcare communications as either "out of shape" or "on life support".


Half (50 per cent) admit they never visit the newsrooms of drug companies, with almost a quarter (22 per cent) calling them "unsatisfactory" and two thirds (64 per cent) saying there is "room for improvement" when it comes to the information provided.


85% of health journalists not satisfied with Pharma & Healthcare Comms

Only 2% find pharmaceutical and healthcare information trustworthy

36% feel government agencies acting on behalf of consumer best interest

Pharma Guy's insight:

But they often reprint what's in press releases verbatim. Just sayin'

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PinUp: FDA Muzzles Journalists, Cancer Sites Emphasize Positive, Prescribing Medical Mobile Apps, More...

PinUp: FDA Muzzles Journalists, Cancer Sites Emphasize Positive, Prescribing Medical Mobile Apps, More... | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News |

Welcome to the September 27, 2016, issue of Pharma Industry News Update (aka PinUp). PinUp is published every Tuesday as part of your Pharma Marketing News subscription service. It features curated pharma industry news and views of topical interest from a variety of sources.



Featured Event

West Coast Electronic Benefit Verification & Prior Authorization Summit

25 - 26 October 2016 | San Francisco, CA



How the FDA Turns Journalist Watchdogs Into Lapdogs


Documents obtained by Scientific American through Freedom of Information Act requests now paint a disturbing picture of the tactics that are used to control the science press. For example, the FDA assures the public that it is committed to transparency, but the documents show that, privately, the agency denies many reporters access - including ones from major outlets such as Fox News - and even deceives them with half-truths to handicap them in their pursuit of a story. 


More here... 


FDA isn't alone in manipulating the press. Read, for example, "Academics Exaggerate, Journalists Regurgitate";  and "Bad Journalism Abets Bad Pharma: Philly Inquirer Editors Raked Over Coals"; 



Just Like DTC Ads, Pharma Cancer Drug Websites Emphasize Benefits Over Risks


Researchers from the US Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) Office of Prescription Drug Promotion (OPDP) and research firm RTI International say that websites for cancer-drugs are ten times more likely to include quantitative information about all the benefits of a drug versus all its risks.


More here... 


Also read: "Oncologists Say Cancer Drug Advertising Fosters Misinterpretation of Efficacy by Patients";  and " Breakthrough Cancer Therapy DTC Advertising Boldly Emphasizes the Positive"; 



Apple Hires YouTube @DocMikeEvans to Prescribe Health Apps!


Mike Evans, known on YouTube as "DocMikeEvans," has joined Apple to work on digital health care. Evans is best known for his videos where he narrates while an animated doctor gives health tips and advice.


"In future, I'll prescribe you an app. One of our whiteboards will drop in and explain what high blood pressure is. The phone will be Bluetoothed to the cap of your pills. I'll nudge you towards a low salt diet. All of these things will all happen in your phone. I see you two or three days a year. The phone sees you everyday."



More here... 


You might also be interested in reading: "AMA CEO Calls Out Medical Apps as 'Digital Snake Oil'";  and "Most Doctors Not Yet Ready to Recommend Mobile Apps & Wearable to Patients";  and " Kevin Pho, MD, is not ready to prescribe mobile health apps. Why not?"; 



Forget Mobile-Enabled Web - You Need an App for That + Video!


This year, US adults will spend 1 hour and 54 minutes a day using apps on their smartphones, 7 minutes more than last year. In contrast, they’ll only surf the mobile web on their phones for 19 minutes a day, a decline of 2 minutes from last year. In other words, apps will account for 86% of adults' nonvoice smartphone time this year, with the mobile web accounting for just 14%.


More here... 

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Bad Journalism Abets Bad Pharma: Philly Inquirer Editors Raked Over Coals

Bad Journalism Abets Bad Pharma: Philly Inquirer Editors Raked Over Coals | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News |

Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty. It is also a necessity if one wants to avoid getting screwed by unaffordable drug costs. Right now vigilance should be directed at certain newspaper editorial boards, particularly those that keep giving space to the pharmaceutical industry's flacks and underlings as they try justifying unconscionable drug prices.

In late October the Inquirer published an op-ed by a pharma flack who shrieked that contemplated controls on drug prices would end the development of new drugs. That followed by several weeks a Labor Day op-ed the Inquirer gave to a bought-and-paid-for academic who trotted out several of the flimsy excuses pharma has used for costly drugs during the past fifty years.

Now this week, the Inquirer's editorial board once again gave a pharma advocate the megaphone of its op-ed space to claim that affordable prices – that is, prices in line with those paid by other advanced countries – will end the development of new drugs.

This latest pleader of pharma's cause is the spokesman for an HIV/AIDS advocacy group in California. The extent to which his group receives funding from pharma companies has not yet been explored, but no matter. The fact that this individual beats the drum for maintaining high drug prices when a large proportion of AIDS sufferers can't afford their medications immediately makes him suspect.

But if original reporting on pharma has gone out the window, can't the editorial board at least preserve a measure of integrity?

In a recent conversation, Dr. Rick Lippin, a physician in Tobyhanna, explained why it is probably naive to expect honest veracity from a Philly paper today with respect to the drug industry.

Wealthy individuals or corporations, he explained, typically own major newspapers and, even if those outlets pass into the hands of putatively independent foundations, they depend on the area's corporate establishment for the bulk of their revenue.

Echoing the late Dr. Arnold Relman, former editor of the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine, Dr. Lippin emphasized the point that the medical-industrial complex constitutes the core of Philadelphia's hopes for pulling itself out of its post-industrial, rustbelt funk.

"Just look at the ties between Penn and Merck, between Jefferson and the other Big Pharmas," Dr. Lippin suggests. "The drug companies, big provider networks and major health insurers are what this city is all about. It's surprising that the major paper isn't even less objective and more of an apologist and a booster."

Pharma Guy's insight:

The drug industry has consistently blamed the news media for painting an "unfair picture" (see, for example, my poll of readers here). I believe, however, that when you look at the evidence, you will find that there is a much higher percentage of articles in major media that paint a "positive picture" of the drug industry and often major news media merely quote verbatim from drug company press releases. For more on that read: "Bad Journalism or Bad Pharma?"; 

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Is Gardasil a "Flop" Because of Faulty Investigative Reporting or Because of Social Media?

Is Gardasil a "Flop" Because of Faulty Investigative Reporting or Because of Social Media? | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News |
The Toronto Star, Canada's highest-circulation daily newspaper, has built a reputation for excellent investigative reporting, including justly celebrated exposes of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford.

But now that reputation is in tatters, due to an evidence-free "investigation" of the health risks of the vaccine Gardasil, which immunizes against the dangerous human papillomavirus. The Star's Feb. 5 piece, ominously headlined "A wonder drug's dark side," exploited heart-wrenching family anecdotes of illness and death to undermine a vast library of scientific studies proving the vaccine to be safe.

Worse, the Star responded to an uproar over the article by scientific and medical experts by smearing and demeaning critics -- until the paper's publisher finally acknowledged publicly that the story was wrong: "We failed in this case. We let down. And it was in the management of the story at the top," he told a radio audience on Feb. 11. On Friday, the Star added a subheadline to the online version of the article, acknowledging the uproar and stating in part, "There is no scientific medical evidence of any 'dark side' of this vaccine."

Pharma Guy's insight:


Meanwhile, some think social media is to blame. Read the following excerpt from a comment to "Will Social Media Make it Harder for Pharma to "Hide" Drug Side Effects?", a Pharma Marketing Blog post:


"Why was Gardasil a flop? It flopped because girls told each other via social media that they felt like $#^& after getting the shot. Not only is uptake in general low but the percentage of girls who get one shot and don't finish the three dose series is astronomical. Social media is killing Gardasil. People won't put up with feeling terrible for some theoretical protection thirty years down the road against something that may never happen to them anyways. Parents won't watch children suffer for the same reason. When they thought their child's adverse reaction was the proverbial "one in a million", they put up with it. Once they began to network (and read the package inserts) and realized how common these adverse reactions really were, parents started saying no. More an more say no every year.

"Pharma can't put the genie back in the bottle. They once controlled the flow of information as the mainstream media wouldn't jeopardize their pharma advertising revenue with critical stories. Blogs, facebook, twitter, etc. have broken the gatekeepers stranglehold on information. It's already happened with vaccines, and it will also happen with traditional drugs. The only reason it hasn't fully happened yet is that the primary market (senior citizens) aren't as plugged into social media as younger consumers. That's changing and it won't be good for pharma."

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.@RichMeyer Defends a $1000 Pill, Disses Journalists, Fails to Cite Sources for Data

.@RichMeyer Defends a $1000 Pill, Disses Journalists, Fails to Cite Sources for Data | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News |

Rich Meyer: If you want to understand why so many people are turning away from traditional journalists as news sources look no further than an article in VOX entitled “This drug costs $84,000, And there’s nothing the US health-care system can do to stop it.”  It’s time to look beyond the cost and instead look at the value of these medications.

Cost must be balanced with value and this is especially true when it comes to prescription drugs.  Hepatitis C is a chronic infectious disease affecting perhaps 3.2 million Americans. Hepatitis C virus, or HCV, infection is often asymptomatic — but its severity fluctuates, and it can progress after many years. Eventual complications include cirrhosis of the liver in 20% to 30% of patients, with grave consequences in terms of health and costs.

Treating HCV infection costs about $85,000, but it is all paid in a matter of weeks. Using treatments available before the introduction of sofosbuvir, the present lifetime medical costs are about $175,000 to $200,000. If HCV infection progresses, there is often cirrhosis of the liver and, in some cases, the need for a liver transplant. Taking into account the upfront cost of treatment — but also the lifetime benefits — researchers have found that sofosbuvir regimens are highly cost-effective, even at current prices.

Pharma Guy's insight:

I don't think people are turning away from traditional journalists because they write sensational stories about pills that cost $1000 each. If anything, they flock to journalists who write such stories.

In any case, Rich makes some good points. I'm not so sure about the risk of transmittal of Hep C by public shaving, however.

Rich cites some numbers like previous lifetime treatment costs of $175,000 to $200,000, but like a bad journalist, he doesn't cite his source for that data. Oh, well, If you want to understand why so many people are turning away from bloggers as news sources look no further than this post!

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The Big Pharma/Big Media Collusion Conspiracy Theory

The Big Pharma/Big Media Collusion Conspiracy Theory | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News |

When you tune in to MSNBC, Fox News, or any of the other corporate media machines, you’re probably not going to hear much about the methods in which big pharma is taking advantage of consumers either through price gouging or medical mishaps. The reason for this is because talking about those stories creates a major conflict of interest for the people behind the scenes. Mike Papantonio discusses this with journalist and author Martha Rosenberg.


According to a 2009 study by Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, with the exception of CBS every major media outlet in the United States shares at least one board member with at least one drug company. Let me put it in perspective for you, these board members wake up, they go to a meeting at Merck or Pfizer, and then they have their driver take them over to a meeting with NBC to decide what kind of programming that network is going to air. For those board members who aren’t pulling double duty with a media conglomerate and a big drug company, they still understand that they can’t be honest and objective about big pharma because big pharma pays their bills.


Drug companies spend about $5 billion a year on advertising with these corporate media outlets, so when Pfizer or Merck or Eli Lilly, or any of the drug companies, kill or cripple Americans with defective drugs, do you really think these board members are going to allow their story to be told on the air? It can take anywhere from three days to a full week before the media reports on a drug or a medical device recall, if they report at all.


In the case of Invokana it took 32 days before television outlets reported a single story involving an FDA warning about the potential problems with the product. The FDA began warning about the extreme dangers of Cook IVC filters as early as 2010 and it took about five years, five years, before television media started reporting that to the public. It’s worth pointing out that in these instances it was only through non-corporate independent media outlets that these stories were told at all. It was the outlets who weren’t being forced, they weren’t being forced to remain silent about the drug industry.


Drugs are cash cow advertising bonanza for corporate media. Fortunately an increase in number of Americans who are starting to wake up and realize that the mainstream media shouldn’t be trusted on issues like this. In recent years we’ve seen the alternative media experience rapid growth and mainstream media has been losing credibility at a staggering rate. Americans are starting to look elsewhere for the truth about what’s really going on out there. As a result of that advertising money kicking around the corporate media isn’t permitted to report complex drug stories anymore.


It’s as if they don’t understand things like the link between crony capitalism and the revolving door between the FDA and the drug industry, but the media is only one side of the story here. Big pharma knows that if it wants to continue manipulating the public it has to start with our elected officials in Washington DC. According to OpenSecrets, big pharma spent more than $58 million on politicians just in 2016, the most amount they’ve spend on a direct contribution in the last quarter century.


When it comes to lobbying, few industry spend more than big pharma did last year. They spent a staggering $244 million dollars to influence our elected leaders in Washington DC. It looks like things are about to get much worse, you see, big pharma understands that the ridiculous … their price gouging is starting to draw negative attention from the American public, and no matter how much they spend advertising or buying our politicians, they can’t keep the public anger down forever.


According to a new report by ProPublica, drug companies are offering huge money to any scientist, any professor or academic willing to author studies that are going to show that these drug markups are necessary, that they’re just fine. Their goal is to spread around enough money at universities to develop scientists and doctors who are going to create this fantasy story about how price gouging is just great for the American public, and then that story will be run by corporate media, dominated by the drug industry.


Further Reading:

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Two Case Studies of Pharma Marketing Influence Over Science & Journal Publications

Two Case Studies of Pharma Marketing Influence Over Science & Journal Publications | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News |

Inappropriate prescription and overconsumption of pharmaceuticals is one of the most pressing public health concerns in North America. Aggressive pharmaceutical promotion practices are widely recognized as a major contributing factor. Two recent medical journal articles provide further evidence of serious problems with the scientific record that has become an intrinsic part of pharmaceutical marketing.


Jon N. Jureidini, Jay D. Amsterdam, and Leemon B. McHenry’s paper in the International Journal of Risk and Safety in Medicine is a case study of how the pharmaceutical company Foster used a scientific publication to boost prescription of its blockbuster anti-depressant citalopram. A paper by Joanna Le Noury and colleagues in the British Medical Journal is the first publication produced as part of an innovative initiative by the scientific community aimed at correcting the scientific record on a host of pharmaceutical products. The study involves a reanalysis of the raw data of a Smithkline Beecham (now GSK)-sponsored published study on the efficacy of paroxetine and imipramine for the treatment of depression in adolescents.


That both publications deal with anti-depressants is not entirely surprising. They have been among the most prescribed—in fact overprescribed—drugs of the last decades. The vagueness of diagnostic criteria and the subjective nature of efficacy measurements in relation to most mental health conditions further facilitate data manipulation. Yet it should not lull us into thinking that the problems are restricted to psychiatric drugs. Both papers confirm … that industry control over the design, conduct, analysis, and reporting of clinical drug trials has turned many scientific publications into marketing tools. It has enabled the industry to selectively report positive results, hide negative results, manipulate statistical tools for favorable outcomes, and underplay problems.


Both papers reveal problems of scientific integrity in pharmaceutical industry-sponsored publications and raise serious questions about the collaboration of academic scientists. In light of what is being exposed in these and in many other related publications, it is remarkable how academic institutions remain silent about the alleged scientific misconduct by some of their researchers.

Pharma Guy's insight:

Also read “Researchers Demand APA Retract ‘Deviant’ Celexa Article That Promotes Rx for Kids”;

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National Press Foundation's Journalist Training is a Winning Proposition for Pharma

National Press Foundation's Journalist Training is a Winning Proposition for Pharma | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News |

Once again the National Press Foundation’s programs are raising conflict of interest questions for journalists. This time the NPF is sponsoring its seventh training session on covering cancer this month in Washington, and in February there will be another training event on obesity held in Phoenix. Both are enticing. The prospect of lots of story ideas, reporting strategies and as the website advertises, “a solid list of sources and resources, including access to audio, slides and some video from speakers” is hard to resist in this age of diminished travel budgets and fast turnarounds for copy. Expense-paid trips, ready-made material, and the ability to get an expert on the phone quickly is a heaven-sent opportunity.

National Press Foundation training programs, however, are hardly pure. These events are often sponsored by corporations that don’t shell out money to fly 15 or 20 journalists to Washington or Phoenix and keep them housed and fed for four or five days for nothing. The funder list, which does include a sprinkling of media organizations and others like AARP, reads mostly like a who’s who of corporate America with Bayer, the Mayo Clinic, and Eli Lilly among the health care companies making the Chairman’s Circle, presumably reserved for large donors. The NPF’s website soliciting new sponsors isn’t shy about what’s in it for them if they cough up the cash.

“Work with us to find the right blend of training and education of journalists to fit your strategy. A literate journalist is a smarter journalist, and that’s a win-win for everyone.”

Educating and training journalists to fit your business strategy? Sounds like a heaven-sent opportunity for sponsors too. Even though the Foundation chooses the speakers, just getting the company name planted favorably in a journalist’s mind is useful. Bayer, the giant drug maker that concentrates on innovative drugs and novel therapies including those for oncology, is sponsoring the cancer sessions. The NPF website advertises that the “latest treatment regimens” will be discussed and presumably that includes the new (and probably expensive, possibly harmful, and maybe ineffective) drugs in the pipeline—some perhaps made by Bayer or will be someday. The Mayo Clinic is the money behind February’s obesity training in Phoenix, where Mayo has a branch operation. It also has expertise in treating obesity like bariatric surgeries and sells related products such as books and DVDs on diabetes diets and weight loss. Perhaps their experts might be quoted someday or a book mentioned in a self-help piece.

Pharma Guy's insight:

Direct-to-Consumer (DTC) and Direct-to-Physician (DTP) marketing have been the two staples of pharmaceutical marketing for many years. Now there is another kind of pharma marketing emerging: Direct to Journalist (DTJ)!

I have written previously about Pfizer's new strategy to "woo" journalists (see "Chantix 'Roundtable' Apparently Not Round and Not a Table" and "Pfizer's PR Chief: 'How in the hell do we have such a bad reputation?'").

From "A New Era of Pharma Marketing: Direct to Journalist (DTJ)": 

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Academics Exaggerate, Journalists Regurgitate. What About Bloggers?

Academics Exaggerate, Journalists Regurgitate. What About Bloggers? | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News |

Thanks to my Twitter colleagues, I came across two disturbing pieces of information concerning healthcare journalism in the US.

The first was a WSJ Health Blog post about an Annals of Internal Medicine study of press releases that academic medical centers send out about their research (see "Academic Medical Centers Often Guilty of Research Hype"). The conclusion: The press releases "often promote research that has uncertain relevance to human health and do not provide key facts or acknowledge important limitations."

The second was a March 2009 Survey of American Health Care Journalists (AHCJ), which found -- among other things -- that just under half (44%) of staff journalists participating in the survey say that their organization sometimes (34%) or frequently (10%) bases stories on news releases without substantial additional reporting (see "State of Health Care Journalism").

Hence, my synopsis: "Academics Exaggerate, Journalists Regurgitate"

Only 39% of AHCJ members surveyed feel that the quality of the U.S. news media’s coverage of medical research is “excellent” or “good.”

Pharma Guy's insight:

A couple of other key findings:

  • A majority of respondents (52%) say there is too much coverage of consumer or lifestyle health, and too little of health policy (70%), health care quality (70%), and health disparities (69%).
  • Nearly nine in ten (88%) survey respondents think health care coverage leans too much toward short “quick hit” stories, and two-thirds (64%) say the trend toward shorter stories has gotten worse in the past few years.
  • Nearly half (48%) think health journalism in the US is going in the wrong direction.

Do "citizen" journalists (ie, bloggers) do a better job? More...

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