A philosopher’s take on Big Pharma marketing

You may not expect to find an ivory tower academic whose erudite specialty is philosophy hanging out at drug marketing conferences, but that’s where you would have found Dr. Sergio Sismondo a few years ago. The professor of philosophy at my old stomping ground, Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, turned up at the annual meeting of the International Society of Medical Planning Professionals, one of two large organizations representing medical communications firms.

A medical communications firm is a business that sells services to pharmaceutical and other companies for “managing” the publication and placement of scientific research papers for maximal marketing impact, often  running a full publicity campaign to help sell the drug being “studied”. This is an alarmingly widespread practice in which drug companies essentially decide what your physician will end up reading in medical journals.  Continue reading

“Death by Prescription: A Father Takes on His Daughter’s Killer”

* See NEWS UPDATE below

When I first heard him interviewed on CBC Radio, I had to stop chopping my red peppers for that night’s pasta sauce. I was utterly riveted by Terence Young‘s compelling story about the tragic death of his 15-year old daughter, Vanessa. His story began 11 years ago on an ordinary spring evening at home near Toronto, while his wife Gloria was also preparing dinner for the family, just as I was doing. Vanessa suddenly collapsed to the floor. Her heart had stopped.

When ambulance paramedics asked if Vanessa had been taking any drugs, her stricken parents replied: “Just Prepulsid.” Prepulsid was the brand name for the drug cisapride, commonly prescribed at the time to treat gastrointestinal issues like indigestion or constipation.

What Terence Young later learned was that cisapride was clearly contraindicated for Vanessa, and that the drug had been associated with hundreds of suspicious deaths in Canada and the United States.  Continue reading