It’s movie awards season, and that reminds us that filmmakers are at work on new projects that might snag an award or two next year. And ever since the film Love and Other Drugs turned Jake Gyllenhaal into a Viagra sales rep, and director Steven Soderbergh‘s film Contagion made a vaccine researcher into a hero, Big Pharma’s a hot theme in the movie biz.
For example, a recent Reutersreport says that Kathleen Sharp‘s book Blood Medicine (formerly Blood Feud) has just been optioned by the film production company, New Regency. This book is the true story of Mark Duxbury, a Johnson & Johnson drug rep-turned-corporate whistleblower. Duxbury repped for J&J’s biotech division Ortho, and was one of its top salespeople for its anemia drug Procrit – until he was fired, allegedly for warning that the drug could actually be harmful.
Here’s why this real-life script has suspense thriller written all over it. Continue reading →
Pfizer, the world’s biggest drug company (at least until their blockbuster cholesterol drug Lipitor truly loses its patent protection for real) has reached a legal agreement in principle to resolve a foreign bribery investigation. A final deal could be struck by the end of the month, according to an SEC filing reported on Pharmalot. Three months ago, Pfizer officials said they had “voluntarily” provided information about “potentially improper payments” made by unspecified Pfizer and its Wyeth subsidiaries in connection with sales activities “in countries other than the U.S.”
The other countries were not named.
The move, as described by Pharmalot, comes amid increased scrutiny by the U.S. government into the pharmaceutical industry and its interactions with foreign health care systems.
“In late 2009, the head of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division warned drugmakers that there will be more criminal enforcement against interactions with foreign officials as they seek violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).”
While recent lawsuits and research studies have raised questions about why some stent-happy cardiologists are implanting the tiny metal devices into the hearts of those who don’t need them, the group representing the doctors who implant those stents relies heavily on income from the very folks who make them. So say the Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalists over at ProPublica.
For example, the Society for Cardiac Angiography and Interventions (SCAI) received 57% of its total revenues in 2009 from medical device and pharmaceutical makers, according to financial information on the group’s website.
Industry contributions to the society’s budget covered $4.7 million of the $8.2 million it received that year.
The group’s biggest funders are in fact the companies with the biggest share of the stent market: Cordis Corp. (a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson), Boston Scientific, Abbott Laboratories and Medtronic.
Researchers who study conflicts of interest in medicine say medical societies that receive a lot of industry support are susceptible to taking positions that either promote their sponsors’ products or downplay their risks. Continue reading →
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 →
Years ago, I used to teach public relations courses called Reputation Management to corporate suits. When I singled out companies that had somehow managed to weather bad press to emerge with reputations well intact, there was one at the top.
That company poster child was, hands down, Johnson & Johnson.
In fact, for many years the Forbes list of 100 Most Admired Companies featured J&J as their perennial list-topper. And the exemplary way the company had swiftly stick-handled its catastrophic Tylenol murders scandal in 1982 continues to be taught in PR, journalism and crisis communications classes.
But those heady days must seem far, far away now, with increasing reports of tainted J&J drug recalls. As Consumer Reports Health describes it, a nauseatingly bad smell to its products has been blamed for stinking up several different types of Tylenol, the antipsychotic drug Risperdal, HIV/AIDS drug Prezista, and two lots of the anti-epilepsy drug Topamax among many others. In fact, the agency reports that recalls like these have cost J&J almost $900 million in sales last year alone. Continue reading →
In case you believe that the medicine you’re taking has been adequately tested on real live patients before being legally approved, you might want to consider research published recently in The New England Journal of Medicine*. A heart drug called nesiritide that for the past 10 years has been given to hospitalized patients with acute heart failure hasfailed to show any improvement compared to placebo.
But the drug had somehow received FDA approval in 2001 for use on these patients – after initial non-approval. Continue reading →