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Peter Rost, M.D., is a former Pfizer Marketing Vice President providing services as a medical device and drug expert witness and pharmaceutical marketing expert. Judge Sanders: "The court agrees with defendants' view that Dr. Rost is a very adept and seasoned expert witness." He is also the author of Emergency Surgery, The Whistleblower and Killer Drug. You can reach him on rostpeter (insert symbol) Please read the terms of use agreement and privacy policy for this blog carefully.

"Risky Rx: Drug maker's secret strategies"

Here's an amazing story published by NBC News and written by Robert Bazell. Actually, he is simply reporting on an even more amazing story in Annals of Internal Medicine.

Is this really true? You may ask.

Yep. This story is based on over 8,000 court documents which Pfizer tried to seal. Didn't work out for Pfizer. Judge denied their motion to seal documents. Ha! And now the story is out:

Risky Rx: Drug maker's secret strategies
‘Disturbing’ glimpse into how marketing dupes doctors — and patients

By Robert Bazell

"We know that physicians meet a parade of drug company sales representatives from their first days of medical school to retirement and that they see drug ads every time they pick up a medical journal.

At least that is represented as the advertising it is.

But a study in this week's issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine
provides extensive detail about how drug companies push their products in far more subtle ways.

Some drug makers pay key leaders in a field of medicine, such as chairs of departments in medical schools, tens of thousands of dollars if they are saying the right things about their product. They manipulate medical education sessions, lectures, articles in medical journals, research studies, even personal conversations between physicians to get their product message across.

"It is very disturbing," says lead author Dr. Michael Steinman of the University of California, San Francisco and the San Francisco VA Hospital. "It really does a disservice to patient care."

Reliable estimates put the drug industry’s expenditure on promotion to doctors at $18.5 billion — that's about $30,000 a year for every physician in the U.S. Companies conceal the specifics of those efforts with a jealousy worthy of a state secret.

Now a huge collection of drug company internal documents — revealed as part of a lawsuit —offers a wealth of detail.

In 1996, Dr. David Franklin, an employee of the drug company Parke-Davis, filed the lawsuit under federal whistleblower statutes alleging that the company was illegally promoting an epilepsy drug called Neurontin for so called “off-label” uses. Under federal law, once the FDA approves a drug, a doctor can prescribe it for anything. But the law specifically prohibits the drug company from promoting the drug for any unapproved uses.

In 2004, the company, by then a division of Pfizer admitted guilt and agreed to pay $430 million in criminal and civil liability related to promoting the drug for off-label use.

Spokespeople for Pfizer say that any wrong doing occurred before Pfizer acquired the company. But Pfizer fought hard to keep all the papers related to the suit under seal. A judge denied the request and they are now part of the Drug Industry Document Archive at the University of California, San Francisco.

Steinman and his team summarized some of the key findings from the extensive collection in their paper. It is obvious why the company wanted to keep the documents from public view."

Read the full article here.

And if you want more, check out the book to the left, by Marcia Angell, "The Truth About the Drug Companies." There you'll read a lot more.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Life Within the Pfizer Bubble.

Ms. Marie-Caroline Sainpy, the Pfizer executive who fired Dr. Rost, sent a memo out to employees asking that all Pfizer-sponsored conferences, etc. 'avoid the appearance of lavishness.'

I guess lavish is okay, as long as it doesn't appear lavish. Can the Ritz-Carlton maybe cover up it's signage with a Motel 6 banner? With Pfizer money it can.

Life within the Pfizer bubble, huh? Everything can be handled by issuing a memo and cascading it through the organization.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

So, didn't you say you started this medical advertising hydra (or was that just in Sweden?). Does it feel like you helped open Pandora's box full of disservice to the poor and unhealthy?

Your writings are sort of shirking the more altruistic suggestions for a career. Not ready to go there?

Are you awakening to the otherside of the looking glass or are you just gazing at your reflection now that you have some time?

Blogger Peter Rost said...

Good question. I've learned you can only take responsibility for yourself. Not what all the other crazy people do. If all the honest people leave business you only have the crooks left. So there is no reason NOT to be in business.

I'm all for thriving business, ad agencies, and marketing. I'm a marketer. Not a communist.

But I'm also for honesty. I think long term it also makes business sense. Lot's of people don't agree with that. Clearly. Look at all the pharma companies who paid hundred million dollar fines and signed corporate integrity agreements. The reason they had to sign those, were that they didn't HAVE integrity in the first place.

Blogger Peter Rost said...

Pfizer-guy or gal who wrote "Life Within the Pfizer Bubble"

That is a wonderful story. And so typical. It is all about appearance.

Feel free to tell us more stories from the trenches!!!

Anonymous Janine said...

I meant to go back and post this in the career thread, but given the comment above I think it can just as well go here: altruistic career choices have to come from inside. You can't guilt someone into devoting themselves to good causes, nor should you (that's the generic you, not directed at anyone in particular). And I don't think it is necessarily a character flaw if that isn't someone's cup of tea.


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