First greenwashing, then pinkwashing – now SUGARWASHING!

The chickens are getting into bed with the foxes, folks.  For example, after the charity Save the Children received a $5 million “gift” from Pepsi Cola, the non-profit organization suddenly and inexplicably decided to drop its advocacy campaign to tax sweetened soft drinks as one way to combat childhood obesity.

A mere coincidence, or a backroom agreement to hush Pepsi’s vocal adversary, sweetened by a $5 million “gift”?

And now Roger Collier, writing in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, tells us of yet another example of these surprisingly questionable marketing partnerships between charities and corporate advertisers – this time, it’s UNICEF and their new best friends over at Cadbury chocolates. Collier explains:

“Some health experts believe UNICEF made a poor choice by partnering with a company that makes high-calorie food targeted at children, especially considering that one of the charity’s causes is promoting proper nutrition for children.”   Continue reading

Putting a positive spin on negative medical research results

As a person who’s worked in the field of public relations for decades, I can usually smell a spin a mile away. Take the classic Torches of Liberty parade in 1929 in which a crowd of women marched through Manhattan smoking Lucky Strike cigarettes. The spin? A Big Tobacco-funded women’s rights event that ‘proved’ women could be liberated enough to smoke in public – as long as they smoked Luckies.

Or the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty ads, featuring plus-size models shilling Dove’s skin creams. The spin? We’re beautiful just the way we are (except, of course, for all that ugly cellulite that Dove products can help us get rid of!)

According to a study presented at the International Congress on Peer Review and Biomedical Publication in Vancouver, it seems Big Pharma has been equally busy doing its own creative spinning of its research results published in medical journals. Continue reading

Paying illegal kickbacks to doctors: just the cost of doing business for Big Pharma?

The drug company Novartis has agreed to pay $422.5 million in criminal and civil penalties for promoting illegal use of its epilepsy drug Trileptaland five other Novartis drugs, the U.S. Department of Justice announced recently. The cases charged the company with promoting off-label use of Trileptal for medical conditions it had not been tested or approved to treat, and also for its illegal targeted marketing efforts.

The marketing efforts that prosecutors took exception to included paying kickbacks to physicians to encourage them to prescribe more of these drugs.

Now, that word kickbacks is a loaded word, and one that I’d imagine the docs who have been accepting this drug money would not likely ever use themselves.   Continue reading

Lipitor – and nine other blockbuster drugs that are falling off the ‘patent cliff’

Pfizer, the world’s biggest drug company, sells the world’s biggest brand name drug, Lipitor. According to those busy insiders at Fierce Pharma, this mega-blockbuster cholesterol drug won’t really face marketplace competition until 2011, even though one of the drug’s patents expires this year. And although Pfizer earned $11.4 billion in Lipitor sales last year, that total was a big drop compared to 2008’s $12.4 billion.

After a number of years in the marketplace (usually between 7-12 years in the U.S. and up to 20 years in Canada), a brand name drug’s exclusive patent protection expires, thus opening the market to competition from cheaper generic forms of the same drug.  And when generic drugs become available, the market competition often leads to much lower prices for both the original brand name drug and the generics.  Continue reading

Anti-aging question for Suzanne Somers: “Why is pig thyroid good for us, but horse urine bad?”

Arlene Weintraub is a senior health writer at BusinessWeek, writing on both science and the business of health. She has won a whack of  journalism awards, including from the Association of Health Care Journalists, but it’s her book, Selling the Fountain of Youth, that caught my eye. In particular, she questions the “expert advice” of celebrities pushing questionable anti-aging advice. And few celebs are better at flogging questionable anti-aging advice than Suzanne SomersContinue reading

Novartis stable of big name athletes lures docs to drug dinners

Athletes are no strangers to corporate endorsement income. Soccer royalty David Beckham shills for Adidas,  Giorgio Armani and Motorola. Here in hockey-mad Canada, we have Wayne Gretzky teabags (seriously) and Sidney Crosby flogging his signature turkey sandwich for Dempster’s bread. We’re used to celebrities who are paid to lend that celebrity to major marketing campaigns.  So it should come as no surprise that Swiss-based drug giant Novartis ($44.3 billion in revenue last year), hired sports icons as lures to get doctors to attend free dinners where the company could pitch its drugs to them, writes Tracy Staton of FiercePharma.

Continue reading