“I’m not a real doctor – but I play one on drug ads”

You may recall seeing Dr. Robert Jarvik‘s pleasant face on your TV screen a few years ago flogging Lipitor, the biggest-selling drug on the planet at that time, earning well over $12 billion a year for Pfizer – the biggest drug company on the planet.

This partnership emerged just as the company was seeking to protect Lipitor from emerging competition by cheaper generics, and just before a U.S. Congressional investigation started looking into Jarvik’s credentials and his controversial role as paid pitchman for the cholesterol-lowering statin drug. Continue reading

Seven diseases Big Pharma hopes you get in 2012

Until recently, drug companies selling blockbuster drugs were the darlings of stock market investors. But of course, not all diseases are blockbusters, warns Martha Rosenberg in a recent AlterNet essay. Supply-driven marketing, also known as “Have Drug – Need Disease and Patients” – not only turns us into pill-popping hypochondriacs, she claims, but it distracts from Big Pharma’s drought of real drugs for real problems.

She reminds us that, in order to be considered a true blockbuster disease, a condition must:

  • really exist but have huge diagnostic “wiggle room” and no clear-cut tests
  • be potentially serious with “silent symptoms” said to “only get worse” if untreated
  • be “under-recognized,” “under-reported” with “barriers” to treatment
  • explain hitherto vague health problems that a patient has had
  • have a catchy name — ED, ADHD, RLS, Low T or IBS — and instant medical identity
  • need an expensive new drug that has no generic equivalent

Martha suggests the following conditions that just might turn into potential blockbuster diseases – the ones that Big Pharma hopes you get this year:   Continue reading

Foreign intrigue: when drug companies bribe doctors

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).”

And he apparently meant it.  Continue reading