JUST SAY NO to antipsychotic drugs for toddlers

At 18 months, Kyle Warren started taking a daily antipsychotic drug on the orders of a pediatrician trying to quell the boy’s severe temper tantrums. The troubled toddler’s journey from one doctor to another, from one diagnosis to another (involving even more drugs for autism, bipolar disorder, hyperactivity, insomnia and oppositional defiant disorder) was shared recently in the New York Times. The boy’s daily pill regimen multiplied: the antipsychotic Risperdal, the antidepressant Prozac, two sleep drugs, and one for attention-deficit disorder.

And all by the time he was three years old.   Continue reading

Please, no more fridge magnets! Why companies spend all that money on useless corporate swag

I’ve picked up lots of corporate swag at conferences and trade shows during my PR days, but free ballpoint pens or cheap fridge magnets can hardly compete with the really good swag that other people seem to get.  Consider for example what was handed out to sports photographers covering the February Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver/Whistler this year: an eye-catching coffee travel mug shaped exactly like a 70-200mm Canon L-series lens. Now that’s a very cool and potentially useful Olympics souvenir to bring home.

Or how about the American Society of Clinical Oncology? The drug company Genentech gave out to each annual meeting attendee in Chicago a beautiful black leather case filled with a wireless mouse, a 1 GB thumb drive, a combination laser-pointer/infrared remote control PowerPoint slide advancer, and a four-outlet USB hub – each one engraved, of course, with the Genentech corporate logo.

Other drug companies use even more creative and arguably more sinister swag strategies: in the waiting rooms of child psychiatrists, for example, children play with giant Lego blocks prominently stamped with the word Risperdal, courtesy of the drug company Johnson & Johnson – who have now lost the patent on the antipsychotic drug and have stopped handing out these toys.

But few promotional gifts can compare with the $91,000 swag bags distributed to celebrities at the Academy Awards ceremonies in Hollywood this past March.   Continue reading

Harvard cozies up with Big Pharma

It was like something out of the movie Michael Clayton – only with Big Pharma as the villain: a Pfizer drug rep sporting a severe black suit and taking cell phone pictures of students protesting Harvard Medical School’s ties to the drug industry. Staged last October, the Boston gathering was sparsely attended, with a few students holding signs and a petition delivered to an empty office (the dean was out of town).

But the photographer’s appearance was notable enough to merit a story in the New York Times, which eventually led to a U.S. Senate committee investigation.

And so it goes for Harvard Medical School, according to a report in Boston Magazine that reveals Harvard has actually been under increasingly intense scrutiny since 2008, when a series of incidents put a spotlight on the venerable university’s symbiotic –  if awkward –  relationship with drug companies.

The trouble started that summer, after Dr. Joseph Biederman, a child psychiatrist and Harvard Medical School professor, was found to have taken more than $1.6 million in payments (which he apparently failed to fully disclose to the school as required) from the maker of a major anti-psychotic drug he’d been prescribing.  Continue reading