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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Is Vermont Governor Shumlin Misguided? Yes Says #Pharma: OIC Ad Will Stay on Air

Is Vermont Governor Shumlin  Misguided? Yes Says #Pharma: OIC Ad Will Stay on Air | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News |

Two drug makers are ignoring a demand from Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin to yank a television ad that he believes is a “shameful attempt” to exploit the opioid crisis.

The dispute arose last week when Shumlin released an open letter to Daiichi Sankyo and AstraZeneca after they ran an ad during the Super Bowl. The ad promoted awareness of opioid-induced constipation, a condition that can occur when someone is taking opioid painkillers.

Shumlin noted that a one-minute Super Bowl ad cost a reported $10 million — or more precisely, $5 million for each 30-second spot — and wants the drug makers to, instead, divert some of their promotional dollars toward prevention and treatment programs.

So what will the drug makers do?

A Daiichi Sankyo spokeswoman said in a statement that the drug maker acknowledges that opioid abuse is a “very serious public health” issue in the United States, but did not mention the possibility of pulling the ad. Instead, she wrote us that the company — along with AstraZeneca and five advocacy groups that also sponsored the ad — is “committed to raising awareness” about the condition.

In a letter to Shumlin, AstraZeneca wrote that “we believe our message encourages a clinically important conversation about OIC between patients and their doctors, which may also facilitate a broader discussion about safe and appropriate opioid use. While these discussions are separate and distinct, both are important for patients and their families.”

Their responses, however, did not mention pulling the ads or using advertising funds as Shumlin suggested.

“He’s way off base,” Richard Meyer, an industry consultant who writes The World of DTC Marketing blog, told us. “If he is so concerned about addiction, he needs to tighten the prescribing parameters and make it tougher for patients to become addicted.”

But another marketing expert disagreed.

“I suppose he, like many other state governors, is faced with increasing Medicaid costs and other expenditures related to opioid addiction,” said John Mack, who publishes Pharma Marketing News. “So, I don’t think he is the misguided one.”

Pharma Guy's insight:

My full reply to Silverman's inquiry ("Is Shumlin misguided?"): 

I suppose he, like many other state governors, is faced with increasing Medicaid costs and other expenditures related to opioid addiction. So, I don’t think he is the misguided one. The one who is REALLY misguided is Massachusetts Governor Charles Baker who eliminated $500,000 in funding for a program designed to curb the inappropriate prescribing of opioid drugs by physicians. Especially when police in his state (e.g., Gloucester; are fighting drug addiction and specifically citing pharma companies as part of the problem.

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Pain Pill Advocates Defend Opioid-Induced Constipation Super Bowl Ad. We're Not Junkies!

Pain Pill Advocates Defend Opioid-Induced Constipation Super Bowl Ad. We're Not Junkies! | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News |

Next to the game itself, probably the one thing people talk about the most to day after the Super Bowl are the TV commercials. 

One commercial that is making quite a few lists as one of the worst is by drug maker AstraZeneca promoting its opioid induced constipation (OIC) drug. The black and white commercial features a constipated man envious of others (even a dog) who can easily go to the bathroom.

“The Super Bowl is known for inspiring lots of eating and lavish spreads of food. So why would advertisers pay millions to air ads focusing on constipation?” asked Eric Deggans of National Public Radio.  “There may never be a great time to air ads like this, but to broadcast such spots in an event where viewers are eating stuff like guacamole dip and pizza surely is the worst.”

“Nothing livens up a Super Bowl like a commercial about opioid-induced constipation,” said ESPN’s Dan Graziano on Twitter. 

“Opioid Induced Constipation commercial during the Superbowl? Should have aired that during the Pro Bowl. Nobody gives a sh** about it,” wrote Don on Twitter. 

Most of the Tweets aimed for laughs, but one by comedian and talk show host Bill Maherquickly went viral – and not because most people thought it was funny.

“Was that really an ad for junkies who can’t sh**? America, I luv ya but I just can’t keep up,” wrote Maher.

The depiction of opioid patients as “junkies” really got under the skin of pain sufferers and patient advocacy groups, some of whom are sponsored by AstraZeneca.

Pharma Guy's insight:

I also got this email from Paul Gileno, Founder & President, U.S. Pain Foundation:

Bill Maher single-handedly labeled all people with pain as junkies. I take extreme offense to this statement. It is this ignorant mindset that is harming the 100 million Americans living with pain from receiving the adequate care they need as well as the support they deserve. In the current health care landscape, chronic pain patients are continually forced to "prove" their pain. They face backlash and ridicule instead of compassion and help.
U.S. Pain Foundation collaborated on this ad with other organizations to spread awareness and information. The intention was to provide hope and resources to those facing a serious condition brought on by following a legitimate treatment program. The goal - for all involved on this project - was to make sure people living with OIC do not feel embarrassed or alone. It therefore saddens and angers me that those with high profiles would choose to increase the stigma associated with chronic pain without researching the pain care crisis in America.
Mr. Maher, let me inform you:
  • According to the 2011 IOM Report, 100 million Americans live with chronic pain caused by many different illnesses, conditions or injuries.
  • Chronic pain affects all races, religions, sexes and ages. 
  • In 2015, The National Pain Strategy incorporated these four core beliefs from the Consumer Pain Advocacy Task Force into their plan.
    1. Chronic pain is a real and complex disease that may exist by itself or be linked with other medical conditions.
    2. Chronic pain is both an under-recognized and under-resourced public health crisis with devastating personal and economic impact.
    3. Effective chronic pain care requires access to a wide range of treatment options, including biomedical, behavioral health and complementary treatment.
    4. Denying appropriate care to people with chronic pain is unethical and can lead to unnecessary suffering, depression, disability and even suicide.
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