Saturday, February 24, 2007
In the seventies, Stanley Adams, a Roche employee, handed over documents to the European Economic Community, detailing how the company kept the price of vitamins high with the explicit collusion of its supposed rivals. But an EEC bungle identified Adams.
Roche decided to prosecute and he was imprisoned under tough Swiss commercial secrecy laws. His wife then committed suicide.
Twenty years later, Roche was at it again - marshalling a price-fixing cartel in exactly the same product. It was fined more than $500m by US and EU competition regulators.
But the story doesn't end there. Adams wrote the book "Roche versus Adams." But that also wasn't the end of the story. After having gone through the most horrendous experiences, he was convicted of attempted murder.
And, then Roche was convicted.
Blowing the final whistle
As Brussels blasts the drug giants, the man who took on Roche and was jailed for it talks to Nick Mathiason
Sunday November 25, 2001
Never has the European Commission seen such a serious example of concerted price-fixing between giant corporations.
Usually timid, the Commission last week let rip. Some of the world's biggest drug companies, including giant Swiss pharma, Roche, were fined a record £523 million.
Mario Monti, the European Commission's competition director-general, said that 13 companies illegally colluded to raise the price of vitamin pills and vitamins added to foodstuffs. He added that the cartel could be dubbed 'Vitamin Inc' and was the most damaging case the commission had ever investigated, as it continued throughout the entire Nineties and involved substances vital for healthy living.
To Stanley Adams, Monti's ruling came as no surprise. He's seen it all before. The 74-year-old blew the whistle on Roche nearly 30 years ago. It was Adams who handed over documents to the European Economic Community, as it was then, detailing how Roche kept the price of vitamins high with the explicit collusion of its supposed rivals. Some things never change.
Adams said he would help the EEC with its investigation in return for anonymity. But the EEC bungled badly. It allowed a Roche official to photocopy some of the incriminating documents.
The documents came from Adams's office. They had his signature on them. He was sunk. The Swiss authorities arrested him and called him a spy. Adams's wife was told that he faced a 20-year jail term for industrial espionage. She committed suicide. In the end, Adams served six months in a Swiss prison. But it took the Maltese-born whistleblower more than 10 years to wheedle compensation from Europe through the courts. In 1985 the European Union agreed to pay Adams £200,000 - £300,000 less than he wanted.
Alone in his flat in Weymouth, Dorset, the veteran Labour supporter is full of bitterness and derision. His targets are manifold. He says the EU, drug companies, politicians - the whole shooting match - are all as bad as each other.
But one thing cheers him - the level of the drug companies' fines. 'I'm very happy, even though in my opinion they got off lightly,' he said in a heavy Mediterranean accent. 'My wife committed suicide. They've been at it since the Sixties. In some ways I feel vindicated and that the work I started is coming to an end.
'But the courts don't have the guts to take the necessary action. How is it that in the US they imprison company directors? It should happen in Europe.'
Not surprisingly, Adams hates the European Commission. 'Because of their stupidity, I was in the shit.'
He said that most major drug companies have senior politicians on their payroll to serve their interests. 'In England it was Lord Paget [now dead]. He was Roche's man. He was the only one who stood up in the Lords and said I was a spy. The son of a bitch.'
Adams may be unfazed by the severity of the fines issued by Monti. But the ruling stunned businessmen. German chemical group BASF, which was fined £185m, expressed anger at the punishment and indicated that it may appeal. If it does, it risks an even greater punishment, warned an EU spokesman for Monti this weekend.
The size of the fine staggered anti-trust lawyers. 'Super Mario has got his half a billion,' said Michael Cutting, an anti-trust lawyer at Linklaters & Alliance. 'The aggregate level of fines is massive. There has to be appeals.'
The trial will continue to have huge ramifications. Chief among them is the treatment by Europe of companies that volunteer information. Aventis was the first company to come to the European Commission and escaped with a paltry £3m fine. This is what Europe wants to encourage.
The Commission is preparing to take on a more muscular approach to cartel-busting. It is delegating increasing competition powers to individual countries so that it can work on the bigger cases.
But it is still dreadfully slow. It's been nearly two years since the EC announced it was investigating Sotheby's and Christie's on price-fixing charges. It has yet to decide whether it is going to bring charges.
But Adams can't put all the blame on Roche and the Commission for his present situation. The one-time leftwing cause célèbre and friend of Labour high-fliers, emerged from prison three years ago, having served five and a half years for the attempted murder of his second wife. He had hired a hitman, wanting to benefit from her life insurance.
'It is my biggest regret,' he says. 'If I had not done that, I would have been in the House of Lords today.'
Vi racconto i peccati del farma-business - Corriere della Sera Magazine
Peter Rost - “Global Pharma”
SCOMODE VERITA' 22/02/2007 Libri 24/7 >
Translate to English here.
La vita scorre tranquilla a Pharmacia, un colosso dell’industria farmaceutica americana, quando improvvisa giunge la notizia che l’azienda è stata messa in vendita. L’acquirente è Pfizer, la ben nota, aggressiva e potente holding internazionale che opera anch’essa nel settore farmaceutico con risultati sorprendenti. Da 3 miliardi di dollari di fatturato del 1990 passa a 26 nei primi anni del Duemila, a ritmi di crescita superiori a quelli delle principali concorrenti, in un mercato, come quello statunitense, in cui si vendono farmaci per circa 200 miliardi di dollari l’anno.
Ma cosa succede se, dopo questo ulteriore colpo messo a segno da Big Pharma per il controllo del mercato mondiale dei farmaci, la medicina e la ricerca si spingono al di là del lecito e della moralità?
E’ proprio il caso di Pfizer, che, per proteggere un giro d’affari sempre più cospicuo, dal 2000 produce e vende (aggirando le indicazioni della Food and Drugs Administration) il Genotropin, un elisir di lunga vita arricchito da uno speciale eccipiente: ormoni della crescita che, se assunti in età adulta, possono causare, assieme a scarsi benefici, diabete e tumori maligni.
Peter Rost, che dell’azienda farmaceutica è uno dei più importanti dirigenti, sarà il primo a spalancare alla verità la porta del suo ufficio e ad affiggere in pubblico, mentre la sua carriera se ne va in fumo, la ricetta segreta di un farmaco di immeritato successo.
Global Pharma è la cronaca lucida e oggettiva di un’attualità che sembra rubata a un thriller giudiziario, un documento scottante, al centro della più grossa frode commerciale dell’era post-Enron.
Peter Rost è stato per molti anni direttore marketing di Pharmacia (poi assorbita dalla Pfizer), prima di diventare un “sicario dell’industria farmaceutica”. Oggi continua a battersi in televisione e sui giornali per i diritti dei consumatori contro i profitti di Big Pharma.
Le vicende di Peter Rost saranno raccontate anche in Sicko, il film in uscita nel 2007 che Michael Moore ha dedicato al business della sanità in America.
Questo il destino che le aziende riservano alle “gole profonde”: il 90% viene licenziato, il 25% è vittima dell’alcolismo e il 10% tenta il suicidio.
"L’integrità è la base della fiducia di cui abbiamo bisogno per realizzare la nostra missione: diventare l’azienda più stimata al mondo.” – dal Codice di Etica e Business della Pfizer.
Friday, February 23, 2007
And people in general are scared about lawyers, because lawyers sue other people for a living.
Those readers miss a very important fact: You can question authority and have fun when you are an unemployed bum, such as yours truly, with no resources except your wits, and your blog.
After all, civil litigation is about money. If you don't have it, litigation is meaningless. You wouldn't sue a homeless man if you tripped over him, would you? It's not like you'd collect a dime. No point. That's my point.
Once you lose it all, you actually become free. Free, just like me . . .
As Janis Joplin used to sing, "Freedom's just another word for nothin' left to lose . . ."
Pretty cool I think: To be free.
And if you want that song live . . . here's Pink doing her version, and, I gotta tell you . . . wow, she's the closest I've heard to Joplin singing this tune. Yet, she keeps her own style. Pink; listen to her. You'll feel chills along your spine . . .
Several of us were a bit worried that Peter Rost's Question Authority blog was under hacker attack or being censored by the CIA or NSA (see "Did the CIA Shut Down Question Authority?" and "Access denied...?").
But it was all a testosterone tango between Rost and Pfizer's law firm. Rost calls it a click-a-thon (see " Click-a-thon with Pfizer's lawyers") but I think "testosterone tango" sounds better, don't you?
Rost is confident he can win the good fight: "So how can I feel confident? Because raw power and money doesn't always win; if you don't believe me, check out a place called Iraq . . ."
I think he may suffer the fate of "good sir knight:"
Posted by John Mack
By the way, John seems to know me pretty well:
Never, ever give up. Ever.
You can download a pdf file of the entire article here.
Click on images to read a few excerpts from the article:
What do we want to listen to?
Take a look at what really sells . . . one picture can, indeed, say more than a thousand words. How much did Howard get for his potty mouth? $500 million. Suck on that one.
Thursday, February 22, 2007
"That Peter Rost over at Question Authority! What a show he puts on! Next he'll be shaving his head! . . . Today we see the site redirected to the Epstein, Becker and Green PC web site. These guys are the lawyers that are defending Pfizer against Rost's whisleblower case, which I won't get into here . . . What you get is this message: "Sorry, Epstein, Becker & Green. Your access is denied and we are watching you for a change." Then you are directed to the law firm's site; specifically to the bio of Ronald M. Green. All this is great entertainment. Thanks Peter."
And that was kind of the point. It didn't make things less entertaining when the Epstein Becker & Green firm started a click-a-thon, trying to enter Question Authority with an amazing fervor and gusto, see below.
But seriously, imagine when that trial of mine finally comes around . . . (because that trial is coming, there is far too much testosterone over at Pfizer and Epstein Becker & Green for it not to come) . . . imagine as that bull fight starts . . . $50 billion Pfizer and the best employment trial lawyers in the world, Epstein Becker & Green, against, um, just me.
Folks, if Pfizer and their lawyers are this entertaining in the blogosphere, imagine what they'll be like in real life at that trial. There is no way they are not going to create a spectacle that will shine a light into their darkest corners, just like they kept feeding the press with confrontational letters ahead of every media appearance I had: They just can't resist.
Too much testosterone.
So how can I feel confident? Because raw power and money doesn't always win; if you don't believe me, check out a place called Iraq . . .
But I don't blame Epstein Becker & Green for their click-a-thon. A lot of readers appear to display abstinence-related symptoms during the time this blog has been redirected. So why should Pfizer's lawyers be any different?
But first, I don't condone clumsy vandalism and spray tags . . .
But this, however, is interesting. Watch.
And this year Exubera was launched, an insulin inhaler used for the treatment of type 1 and type 2 diabetes that has blockbuster potential. According to Pfizer.But look at the Exubra inhaler! It is BIG. A foot long, when unfolded, which makes it feel like a baseball bat. Think your girlfriend would like to haul that out of her handbag while seated in a restaurant?Common sense, folks. Common sense. NO ONE would be caught dead with this foot long pocket rocket in their pocket. Or handbag.
Today, Pharmalot made the following comment:
Get Ready For Those Exubera Ads
Pfizer is making good on those recent threats and will soon run them on tv and in magazines. The desperate drugmaker wants to go directly to diabetics to salvage its failing insulin inhaler, which has bombed due to a high price tag and its cumbersome design (it looks like a bong, if you didn't already know).
As always, you heard it on Question Authority first.
Qustion Authority calls it as we see it.
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
John Mack asked, Did the CIA Shut Down Question Authority?
Pharmagiles wrote, Access denied...?
So let me explain.
A blog is a party. People coming together, dropping in, hearing thoughts, jokes, news, whatever.
Most blogs are open to anyone--you want to join the party, step right in.
Some blogs, a few, are private, by invitation only.
This blog is open to anyone. That doesn't mean I necessarily enjoy everyone coming here. Most people I love having. A few I don't care so much for.
I mean, seriously, if you had a party and a lot of friends and curious onlookers came by, you'd enjoy it. But if you suddenly had visits by people paid to come by, just to check on you, you wouldn't like it so much.
Am I right?
But it's a blog you say, it's for everyone. This week, however, I've shown it isn't.
You see, most of those paid people work 9 to 6, east coast time, then they go home. And of course, they do use blog or RSS feeds.
So I decided to make a point. I cancelled the feed. I sent those paid people who keep coming here 9 to 6 to the CIA, to the NSA. And I'll keep sending them to fun places.
Of course, they could come here when the blog is open, in the evening, but it is more of a pain. And of course they will come. But I made my point.
So you may say . . . am I not alienating my regular readers?
Maybe, but hey, it's my blog. That's what makes it unique. I mean, I already outed one big D.C. law firm and the lawyers who came here, and they stopped using their office computers to access this blog. Switched to a private service after a failed attempt to use anonymizer services. That was fun.
Seriously, I think a blog should be interesting, creative, exciting.
But you should know this is no regular blog. Lots of people read it because they enjoy coming here, but others read it because it is their job to monitor what I do. They read it because they DON'T like the content.
So I think if unexpected things happen, like corporate spies reading this blog being sent to the CIA (by the way, the CIA encourages anyone to link to their site), that is simply hilarious.
What am I gonna come up with next week?
Dunno yet. Something crazy, I'm sure.
Come back tomorrow. See what happens and where this blog takes you . . .
So here's my response.
Que, sera, sera.
I loved that song when I was a little boy. Still like it.
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
PharmaGossip is the blog which inspired this blog until this blog realized it could never be what Pharmagossip is and shouldn't even try.
In admiration and awe, to PharmaGossip:
Cheers, Jack Friday!
Monday, February 19, 2007
Saturday, February 17, 2007
Friday, February 16, 2007
Here are the links, Pfizer, no charge.
By the way, the first one is by Senator Byron Dorgan . . . I had no idea until today!
Take This Job and Ship It: How Corporate Greed and Brain-Dead Politics Are Selling Out America by Byron Dorgan (Hardcover - Jul 25, 2006)
Excerpt - page 103: "... Peter Rost, a vice president of marketing with Pfizer, testified before ..."
Excerpt - page 104: "... Rost became an instant pariah in his company and was subsequently interrogated by company lawyers, according to The Washington Times. ..."
Excerpt - page 109: "... The same holds true with the American health-care system. As Pfizer's Dr. Rost told CBS's 60 Minutes, "We're the wealthiest nation on earth, ..."
› See more references to "Peter Rost" in this book.
Democracy's Edge: Choosing to Save Our Country by Bringing Democracy to Life by Frances Moore Lappe (Hardcover - Oct 28, 2005)
Excerpt - Back Matter: "... 2003 [http://www.citizen. org/documents/Pharma_Report.pdf], p. 2, accessed on March 8, 2005; Peter Rost, "Bush Report on Drug Imports: Good Data, Bad Conclu- sions, ..."
› See more references to "Peter Rost" in this book.
The Fox in the Henhouse: How Privatization Threatens Democracy (Bk Currents) by Si Kahn and Elizabeth Minnich (Paperback - Oct 10, 2005)
Excerpt - page 144: "... ensures that they do not. Five days after Christmas 2004, Peter Rost, vice president of marketing for Pfizer, ..."
Excerpt - page 145: "... get drugs at a less inflated price. Shouldn't we all? Peter Rost also confronts the issue of patents, the very things the Bayh-Dole Act ..."
› See more references to "Peter Rost" in this book.
Hostile Takeover: How Big Money and Corruption Conquered Our Government--and How We Take It Back by David Sirota (Hardcover - May 2, 2006)
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"I'll never forget having a fish sandwich and loading it up with tartar sauce and having French fries," Burton recalled. "I actually discharged some oil." Luckily for Burton, what he refers to as his "classic oops" episode happened on a Saturday when he was doing errands, not during an important meeting. So he went home to change clothes.
Read more about this interesting drug over at PharmaMarketing and NY Times.
The wonder drug Alli, which makes you poop in your pants, coming soon to a supermarket near you . . . no kidding.
Thursday, February 15, 2007
And yes, I also love Pharmagossip when Jack doesn't pull these stunts . . . if you are not a regular reader of Pharmagossip you are missing out every day . . . after all there is other stuff to read about than the Michelle Manhart video, which YouTube has now removed.
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
This story started with confidential marketing materials belonging to Eli Lilly about its top-selling anti-psychotic drug Zyprexa leaked to Berenson. The documents were part of evidence turned over by Lilly as part of a lawsuit which claimed that side effects from Zyprexa caused excessive weight gain and diabetes.
Alex Berenson wrote a long front-page article about the documents Lilly didn't want the world to see. And what got the judge going was the way Berenson obtained the documents. Essentially, Berenson twisted the legal system a similar way any large defense law firm abuses our legal system every day.
According to the ruling, Mr. Berenson obtained the documents after he discussed ways to circumvent a protective order related to the documents. Mr. Berenson put one guy who had the documents in touch with a lawyer who simply issued a subpoena for the documents. Then the lawyer turned them over to Berenson. And this way they circumvented the protective order which applied only to the parties in the case.
Shocking? Of course Lilly is crying all the way to court.
Reality, in my humble opinion, is that this kind of trickery is exactly what any major legal defense firm practices on a daily basis. But the fact that a journalist makes an end-run around a court order, without apparently violating said order, shouldn't be very shocking.
Truth is that our legal system has long ago been subverted by very rich and very corrupt lawyers and our legal system simply can't keep up with their chicanery. That is the big problem, not the fact that a media company employs the same methods.
For full story go here and here.
"Merck acknowledges that this agreement was reached as a result of the cooperation and reasonableness of the IRS"
In this article I wrote, "Merck, one of the largest U.S. drug companies, also this month disclosed that they face four separate tax disputes in the U.S. and Canada with potential liabilities of $5.6 billion. Out of that amount, Merck disclosed that the Canada Revenue Agency issued the company a notice for $1.8 billion in back taxes and interest “related to certain inter-company pricing matters.” And according to the IRS, one of the schemes Merck used to cheat American tax payers was by setting up a subsidiary in tax-friendly Bermuda. Merck then quietly transferred patents for several blockbuster drugs to the new subsidiary and then paid the subsidiary for use of the patents. The arrangement in effect allowed some of the profits to disappear into Merck’s own “Bermuda triangle.” "
I guess Merck just resolved the tax fraud issue related to the U.S., see press release below. Merck's $2.3 billion payment matches the $2.3 billion that disappeared into Merck's own "Bermuda triangle."
Merck Settles Tax Dispute with Internal Revenue Service
Wednesday February 14, 8:30 am ET
WHITEHOUSE STATION, N.J.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Merck & Co., Inc. announced that it has entered into a definitive agreement to settle its previously-disclosed tax disputes with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). This settlement resolves all of the issues that were in dispute. The agreement essentially brings to a close the IRS's examination of the Company for the period 1993-2001. Under the agreement, the final net cash cost to Merck is expected to be approximately $2.3 billion which covers federal tax, net interest after federal tax deductions and penalties. The impact for years subsequent to 2001 of the previously disclosed tax disputes is included in the settlement although those years remain open in all other respects.
Merck has previously reserved for these items and this settlement is not expected to have any material impact on the Company's annual earnings for 2007.
The Company concluded that given the theoretical amount in disagreement, it was in the Company's best interests to reach this settlement so as to remove the uncertainty and cost of potential litigation. Merck acknowledges that this agreement was reached as a result of the cooperation and reasonableness of the IRS and the Company.
Tuesday, February 13, 2007
He plummets 12,000ft to earth after both his parachutes fail ... and hits the ground at 80mph.
Michael's friend, who jumped from the same plane, also filmed the whole event.
See what happened here:
Any thoughts you have on her or that you want her to address, feel free to leave them here.
Also, run the cursor over her face, and see what she does!
This, of course, has to be corrected.
I used to use an old Compaq when that picture in the post And another article . . . was taken, but I guess that isn't really any better.
Anyway, someone in my family got fed up with me hogging the computer and forced me to buy a new one.
So I got a sleek new Sony VAIO VGN-N130G.
I figured, it offers twice the performance of the old machine at $800 vs. the $1200 I paid for the Compaq five years ago. I could've spent twice as much but it would have been outdated in two years anyway.
And I know, it isn't a Mac. But I've spent twenty years working for big corporations, and I know every in and out of the shoddy XP operating system.
You just have to live with the fact that the thing may crash or stop working properly anytime, and then you reinstall from scratch and the machine works like it was new again.
Reinstalling everything is often a lot faster than talking with a tech in India who doesn't speak english. Although system restore is also a great function. But for some reason half the time my machine decides it can't do any restores . . . And of course, my Sony completely crashed a couple of days ago, and I couldn't even restart the thing, not even in safe mode, and I called Sony's help center (learned to tap F10 to go into automatic reinstall mode from the partitioned recovery drive). The nice surprise was that instead of the non-english speaking tech from HP, I got to talk to a real, live english speaking Sony person.
As for Vista, I have the option to get it, but don't hold your breath. It took Microsoft five years to clean up XP, and it still doesn't work too well, and I think I'll wait a year or two installing that one.
So here is John's comments about this blog:
Question Authority: Roasting Rost
Every once in awhile I will review a member blog of the Pharma Blogosphere. I already reviewed one of my least favorite blogs -- Drug Wonks (see "Drug Wonks Are PR Wonks"). Now it's time to review one of my favorites -- Question Authority with Dr. Peter Rost.
Peter -- and I think he won't mind me calling him Peter -- started out in the blogosphere under the auspices of the Huffington Post. It didn't take long for Peter and Huffington to tangle over censorship of one of his posts. This lead Peter to start his own blog (see "Rost to Roost in Blogosphere"). "Lot's of people have been writing about me," Peter told me, "so I think it's about time for me to start writing on my own."
And the rest is history, as they say. I don't have time to recount that history here, but I offer the following lists of articles and posts I have written about Peter over the past two years:
Peter Rost: Pharma's Black Knight - Recounts how Peter reacted to Pfizer cutting off his arms and legs after his famous 60 minutes interview in which he defended drug reimportation. Of course, Peter has made a living Pfighting Pfizer. I imagine it must sometimes feel like a human confronting a polar bear: "When a male polar bear and a human are face to face, there occurs a brief kind of magic: an intense, visceral connection between man and beast whose poignancy and import cannot be expressed in mere words. Then he rips your arms off." (If you haven't read the New Yorker essay "ALL I REALLY NEED TO KNOW I LEARNED BY HAVING MY ARMS RIPPED OFF BY A POLAR BEAR," I urge you to find it and read it.)
Pharma's Black Knight Confesses All! -- You might say that Peter Rost could write a book about Pfizer. Oh yeah! He did! I thought the book could have been juicier and name more names ("There is some dirt -- such as hints about who's sleeping with whom at Pfizer. How much more interesting this would have been in a fictionalized format with characters and details of trysts in corner offices! It definitely would have offered some relief and human interest interspersed between the legal documents, maneuvers and counter-ploys that fill the pages of the book;" see "Pharma's Black Knight Parties On!"). My poor review notwithstanding, the book was obviously a commercial success. You can read my review on Amazon.com.
Rebranding is Good For You!
Recently, Peter rebranded himself as someone who questions authority. He renamed his blog "Question Authority with Dr. Peter Rost" and is currently selling T-shirts and mugs to promote that brand (see "Rost Spams!" and "Rost Raises the Issue of Libel: My Apology").
This brand fits Peter better -- he now is free to go after other symbols of authority and not just focus on the pharmaceutical industry. In fact, he never focused 100% on the pharmaceutical industry. This is just the next step in his transformation that I foresaw back in May, 2006 (see "Peter Rost: Whistle Blower, Pharma Blogger, ???").
Of course, if you are the top brand questioning authority, then you yourself may be questioned. Recently, for example, a commenter on Rost's blog noticed a photo of Peter using a "Dull" (ie, Dell) computer laptop in one of the many PR photos plastered all over Peter's site. The sighting lead to this comment:
Dissapointed (sic) to see one who "questions authority" to be using a bulky old Dell. I would have thought a creative cheeky "questioning authority" type such as yourself would be using a nice smart slim Apple Powerbook such as the one I'm typing this on.I can relate to this. I started my journey with computers on a DEC PDP-11 mini-computer, but my first personal computer was an Apple II and I have been a Mac user for years. But I also have a Dull computer, which I use for business. I can tell you one thing; I will never switch to Microsoft Vista! My next business computer will be a Mac!
Question Authority, question Bill gates and the M!cr0$oft monopoly.
I hope you're running Linux on the Dell ;-)
I think a lot of us bloggers in the Pharma Blogosphere like to question authority. It's interesting, however, that some of us are in turn becoming authorities. I've been called several times by pharmaceutical companies who want to know more about blogs and what makes bloggers tick! Even journalists look upon some of us as authorities.
What makes us bloggers different from the authorities that Peter Rost questions is that we are teddy bears and not polar bears! We couldn't possibly rip the arms off anybody! And I say that in the nicest possible way.
P.S. Peter, please lose "Danielle," your talking avatar. She's annoying and she pronounces your name "roast," which couldn't possibly be right! Or is it?
P.P.S. Everyone should take Peter's advice when reading his blog and this post: "If you have no humor or if you are a boring person you are not supposed to read this blog." Posted by John Mack
Monday, February 12, 2007
You should know that she has her own mind. When I'm not around, she may say all kinds of things.
Let me know if she misbehaves, or, if she does something really great . . .
Or if maybe you think I should hire more assistants.
Saturday, February 10, 2007
I thought that I would kick things of here at sixesallround with a book review - The Whistleblower: Confessions of a Healthcare Hitman by Peter Rost.
As you have probably guessed from the title, Rost is a whistleblower who spoke up about illegal actions which had been carried out by pharmaceutical companies that he was working for. This book was immensely entertaining. Rost was able to leverage recent Enron-inspired legislation, which affords whistleblowers significant protection from retaliation by their company, to speak out against his own company without getting sacked (well, for a while, anyway). The way he outmanoeuvred both lawyers and top company executives had me chuckling at every turn.
Let's not forget here, that what he was actually doing was also a good thing. The practices that he blew the whistle on were not only illegal, but also morally reprehensible. I have always had a huge problem with the way that the health industry (both medical and pharmaceutical) seem to be far more eager to line their pockets than actually give people the best medical care that they can.
I guess I did not find it surprising that he had his critics. Executive and medical director of the ACSH, Dr Gilbert Ross, voted for Rost for what he considered to be the ignominious title of the biggest “whiny whistleblower” for 2005. Let's just take a moment to examine the kind of man who would even come up with an award that denigrates whistleblowers. Ross has form. He has spent time incarcerated for his role in a scheme which defrauded the New York Medicaid program to the tune of $8 million. A judge once said of him that he was "a highly untrustworthy individual". As you can imagine, Rost was not overly offended by this flaccid attempt to ridicule him.
The Whistleblower comes highly recommended. I like Rost and hope that if I ever find myself in a similar position that I will take on the bastards, rather than being a "good employee".
Posted by whittler
Friday, February 09, 2007
So now other blogs have started to notice the exchange John Mack and I've been having.
Here's the post Rost vs. Mack: Let’s get ready to RUM-BLLLLLE! from eDrugSearch Blog, posted by Cary Byrd in Pharma bloggers.
As for Cary's question "Where’s MY T-shirt?" . . . it's right here waiting for you!
I'm sure you've met a few people who've been trained in that school, and has that annoying habit of throwing your name into every second sentence.
Of course, I don't believe that gimmick really works.
But anyone who has ever had a serious relationship knows that the most beautiful words--for the other party to hear--are:
"I was sooo wrong, so very wrong."
Repeat this sentence several times, and you may just get anything you wish.
And that means I'm experiencing very euphoric feelings, now when my dear friend John Mack, just wrote a post called Rost Raises the Issue of Libel: My Apology.
As you may remember John is the genius behind Pharmamarketing and The Pharmablogsphere and recently wrote the fascinating post Barbie Drug Reps I'd Like to See. He is also the guy who kind of claimed that I spammed.
And just so I can read John's lovely post over and over again, here it is--and don't miss the video he threw in at the end!
Rost Raises the Issue of Libel: My Apology
OK. I started this, so I should finish it.
A few days ago I accused Peter Rost (Question Authority) of sending me unsolicited bulk e-mail (spam) in violation of the CAN-SPAM law (see "Rost Spams!") . Yesterday, Peter retorted that it was not spam because he did not send the email in bulk and only to people he has had a previous business relationship with.
In that retort Peter raises the issue of libel (see "Pharmablogosphere: Spam or libel?"). When Peter threatens legal action -- even between the lines -- you have to take notice.
As you may know, Rost has other, bigger fish to fry (ie, Pfizer) and he is concerned that any accusations against him could hurt his case. So, I feel his pain.
He says: "Of course, I figure that John was just having fun and not seriously accusing me of a crime, so I'm not seriously accusing him of libel."
Peter, you know I don't think you are a criminal. If anything, I wanted to point out that I thought your e-mail was in violation, something that could happen if you didn't know the details of the CAN-SPAM law (silly me to think that you wouldn't know the details). That is, I never thought you intended to break the law.
But let's examine if it was spam at all.
Looking at the header of the e-mail that Peter sent me, it appears that it was indeed sent by Peter personally using hotmail with multiple recipients in the BBC field. People do that in regular business correspondence to keep the recipients' e-mail addresses confidential. You might recall that failure to keep e-mail addresses confidential is what got Lilly into hot water with the FTC (see "The FTC-Lilly Consent Decree: What it Means for PHARMA Vendors and Partners").
I guess what Peter did is not considered a "bulk" e-mail tactic. If that is the case and the e-mail was sent to acquaintances, it fails to meet the definition of spam and would not be covered by the US CAN-SPAM act. Also, it means that Peter used techniques to protect the privacy of recipients.
I feel, therefore, that I owe Peter an apology for calling him a spammer. Sorry, Peter.
Can I get a T-shirt now?
Posted by John Mack
Yes John, you can get that T-shirt!!!
Thursday, February 08, 2007
He asks me to participate in his podcasts and I ask him to buy a t-shirt.
I didn't think there was anything unusual going on in this mutual exchange. Well, that is if you think it is perfectly normal for a former drug executive to suddenly support himself hawking t-shirts. But that's a different story.
I guess John, whom I love dearly, didn't have much to write about yesterday. So the email I sent to him showcasing all my pretty Question Authority T-shirts provided a welcome distraction for his writing passion.
So much that he made a post out of it, writing, Rost Spams!
And of course, John knows everything about spamming, considering that there was that little episode a couple of weeks ago, when CafePharma took him to task and deleted his posts, since they considered his messages, well, I guess, spam. You can read about that story in the PharmaRag, under the headline Naughty Boy John Mack at It Again? Or you could read his own post Banned from CafePharma and CafePharma's response on his blog.
So I could understand that John wanted to put the spotlight on someone else. Like me. And I agree with John that spam is bad, bad, bad. Spam is unsolicited bulk email. We all hate it.
There was just a little problem with my email to John, which I had hoped he would think was funny and not spam. It wasn't sent in bulk. Only to a few bloggers whom I knew. And it wasn't unsolicited, since we have an ongoing email relationship. And he could easily "opt-out" simply by responding. But instead he wrote that "Rost spams." And spam is a crime, punishable with big, big fines.
All of this wouldn't really matter, unless there weren't a gazillion lawyers paid by the Big Blue out there reading everything labeled "Peter Rost." So it is worth pointing out . . . no spam. But to accuse someone of a crime that never existed, is something else . . . libel.
Of course, I figure that John was just having fun and not seriously accusing me of a crime, so I'm not seriously accusing him of libel.
But he ain't getting any more special deals on t-shirts!
Tuesday, February 06, 2007
And who knows, after watching his video, maybe a few more pharma sales execs will assist those unemployed women in the video and guide them to a bright future in the drug industry.
Monday, February 05, 2007
In 18 cases, drugmakers were fined the maximum penalty of $14,000. The number of serious cases has doubled since 2005.
The companies were fined a total of about $700,000.
The worst offender was Novartis, which was fined 7 times. A spokeman blamed the violations on a failure of 'internal procedures.'
Richard Bergström, head of the Swedish Association of the Pharmaceutical Industry, said it was clear that the current maximum fines were not a sufficient deterrent.
Again, the maximum penalty was $14,000.
Anyone NOT rolling on the floor howling with laughter?
$14,000 maximum fine.
Only in Sweden.
With that, here's a clip from the Muppet Show, of the Swedish Chef. It kinda tells you what the problem is in that cold, Nordic country.
There are a couple of factual errors, but overall I loved it . . . Ms. Lenzer, however, told me when the review appeared that she had very mixed feelings about it. Apparently, her review was changed quite a bit after she submitted it to the BMJ. For instance, she never used the word “claimed” but it was inserted multiple times in the text. It appears as if the original review made the BMJ's legal department nervous . . .
BMJ 2007;334:261 (3 February), doi:10.1136/bmj.39108.525810.59
Views & reviews
REVIEW OF THE WEEK
Telling the inside story?
Jeanne Lenzer, freelance medical investigative journalist, Cambridge, MA, USA
A sacked drug company executive claims to spill the beans on the industry in a new book
Peter Rost, erstwhile drug company executive, self proclaimed whistleblower, and now book author, first became a cause célèbre in August 2004 when he wrote an endorsement of The Truth about the Drug Companies, the book by former New England Journal of Medicine editor Marcia Angell. He posted a commentary on Amazon.com, saying, "I should start with a disclaimer. I'm a vice president within one of the largest drug companies in the world and I have spent close to 20 years marketing drugs. So I guess I'm not supposed to like this book. But the truth is I thought it was fantastic."
Rost's posting was picked up by the media and he became a much sought after guest on television and radio shows. He took up the cause of drug reimportation, a practice that would allow foreign drug companies to sell drugs in the United States. Reimportation, argued Rost, is widely practised in Europe and could drastically reduce drug prices in the US. His position was in sharp contrast with that of his employer, Pfizer, and to virtually all major US drug companies, which vehemently argued that reimportation would allow unsafe drugs to enter the US and would threaten the health and safety of its citizens.
But Rost began to run into trouble long before he became a public advocate of reimportation. In 2001, as the new head of the endocrine care division of Pharmacia, he learnt, according to his account, that the division's flagship drug, Genotropin, a synthetic form of human growth hormone, was being promoted for off-label uses. Off-label promotion of growth hormone is a felony under federal anti-doping laws. Pfizer, which bought out Pharmacia in April 2003, failed to put a stop to the off-label promotions, says Rost.
Rost alleges that it was his complaints about the marketing of Genotropin that led Pfizer executives to fire him. He was first informed in an email message on 3 February 2003 that he was to be sacked, but he managed to hold on to his job for two and a half years, until 30 November 2005, when he was finally let go. Rost filed a qui tam, or whistleblower, lawsuit against both Pharmacia and Pfizer in December 2005. In the suit and the book, Rost claims to describe some of the inventive marketing techniques used by the companies to promote sales of Genotropin to "anti-aging" clinics and for the treatment of short children who did not have growth hormone deficiency.
Rost, who paints himself as a regular guy in his book, is the quintessential marketer. Along with the publication of The Whistleblower, he has a Hollywood agent looking for potential movie deals; he has written a fictional thriller about the drug industry entitled, The Wolfpack; and he is scheduled to be interviewed for Sicko, Michael Moore's documentary movie, on the healthcare industry.
A niggling aspect of The Whistleblower is that Rost repeatedly wastes the reader's time defending his motives for his various actions as he sought to hang on to his job. Some of his actions appear simply indefensible. Rost, who earned over $600000 (£305 000; 460 000) annually (exclusive of benefits, annual bonus awards, and stock options) is hardly a man without warts. When Pfizer asked him to fire a number of his colleagues, Rost fired them—while bemoaning their fates in the book. He is at his worst, perhaps, when he spends an entire chapter on irrelevant speculation about the sexual activities of Pfizer's bosses. Rost makes no bones about why he wants to pursue possible sexual improprieties, even though he has no first hand knowledge of the events. "If they feared what I knew about them," he writes, "they would be less prone to take away the lifeline I had left—my salary."
Rost's book claims to chronicle problems in the way the drug industry manages to circumvent rules prohibiting off-label drug promotions. In addition, Rost's endorsement of reimportation is perhaps one of the most articulate defences made in the US. The Whistleblower may also reach some lay readers who were not moved to pick up any one of a number of more academic books on the drug industry. Finally, his overview of serious violations by nine top drug companies in his chapter" How corrupt is the drug industry?" should make one thing crystal clear: fines simply don't work. They are, as has often been said, simply the price of doing business.
"Working for a corporation," writes Rost, "is like running with a wolf pack. Everyone helps out and is friendly as long as it benefits the group, but each wolf cares only about himself and will do anything to survive. Compassion, loyalty, caring . . . these are all buzzwords invented to control the masses." Rost's take on the nature of industry might leave one wondering whether Rost isn't simply a very clever wolf himself.
The good news is that when the titans do battle—the fallout can be instructive.
The Whistleblower: confessions of a healthcare hitman
Soft Skull Press, $14.95, pp256
ISBN 10 193336839X
ISBN 13 9781933368399
Sunday, February 04, 2007
In fact, the book is now featured under "this week's author" on Bokus, which is the equivalent of Amazon.com over there.
Friday, February 02, 2007
Funny, same thing didn't happen in any of the other cities with the same neon signs. In fact, these neon signs, used to promote the Cartoon Network (called the Mooninites), have been featured in ten other cities for the past three weeks, all without creating a single incident.
Conclusion: In the future Boston is the #1 terrorist target. After all, if the Boston police thinks neon signs of cartoon characters are bombs, then, hey, maybe they think bombs are neon signs.
Here's a video of how Boston came to a grinding halt:
And how the devices were placed:
And here's a very unusual press conference with the "terrorist suspects":
They ended the article about Pfizer eliminating 10,000 positions, saying, "And Peter Rost, a former vice-president of marketing and strident critic of Pfizer’s current management — now in litigation with the company over the circumstances of his departure in 2005 — predicts that there is worse to come. “This is just the beginning,” he says. “It is not the bottom. Two years from now, Pfizer will make another announcement, and cut another $2 billion. Just watch.”
I've repeatedly told the press that when Pfizer starts cutting the others will follow.
And so, yesterday, AstraZeneca, which reported an increase of 17 percent in fourth-quarter net profits, announced plans that they will eliminate 3000 jobs over the next three years.
These companies are pretty much like a herd of sheep. They all eagerly watch what Pfizer will do and then they do the same thing.
Then again, maybe my blog only appears to be superficial and it is really, really, deep, if you think about it.
Maybe, behind the mockery, the fun, the scathing comments, maybe there's a really sensitive individual.
Or maybe I'm just restless.
Maybe it is time to shut up.
PHARMA/BLOGS: Jim Edwards torpedoes own career!
Some of the best reporting on the pharma business in the last few years has come not from the mainstream press but from Jim Edwards, a reporter buried in the marketing industry trade press at Brandweek. Given the fact that certain Manhattan-based major press publications could use to improve their pharma and health care journalism (and I’m not talking about the WSJ, think more of dogs and sores!), I was hoping and expecting to get an email one day from Jim telling me of his new gig.
But instead, he’s decided to not only stay at BrandWeek but also to commit journalistic suicide and become one of us. His new blog is called BrandweekNRX. Pity. But I look forward to reading it!
I couldn't agree more about how Jim Edwards has written lots of stuff that really should be in the New York Times, and not hidden in Brandweek, but I also couldn't disagree more that Jim, or for that matter Ed Silverman, are committing journalistic suicide.
First there were books, then newspapers, then radio and film and then finally television. Now there are blogs. Matthew Holt, if anyone, should understand how the universe works and evolves. It doesn't mean Ed or Jim will succeed as bloggers, but they have just as good a chance as anyone else.
The difference between them and Matt is that he can blog for as long as he cares, Ed and Jim will have to attract enough readers for their corporate parents to continue to pay them to do this.
This is how this blog promotes itself:
People in the industry are far too busy changing the world to care about sex, greed and lunacy. But if you ever need a break, come visit the Pharma Rag!
Of course, when PharmaGossip and Question Authority with Dr. Peter Rost are mentioned under the titillating headline Pharma Gossip and Porn Too, I too, take notice. Go there and read what he has to say about the blog world!
He also posts this highly unusual video, a bikini contest sponsored by . . . Pfizer under the headline "Tu vida sexual" which translates into "Your sex life", a video which was first found on PharmaGossip.
Oh boy. Those corporate executives sure are having a lot of fun at Pfizer!
But how about being a tiny weenie bit more tasteful? Seriously!
I guess Pfizer didn't count on YouTube to show just how they market their products.
A few days ago I told you about the new blog Pharmalot started by healthcare journalist Ed Silverman and the Star Ledger.
Yesterday I receive an e-mail from yet another friend and heavyweight within drug company journalism—Jim Edwards from Brandweek. He told me that he and Brandweek just started the new blog Brandweek NRX.
And a short glance at these two new blogs tells me things are going to get really interesting with lots of exciting stories, written in a way you don’t usually see these two journalists write their regular articles.
It is news, but news with an attitude.
All of this makes me quite happy. I mean, if these big media enterprises are getting into the healthcare blog world, that means they’ve noticed what PharmaGossip and others, such as this humble blog, are doing. And that they liked what they saw.
Here's how Jim Edwards from Brandweek explained the rational for these new blogs:
"A cynic would say that these are two old media brands desperately trying to find a new way to be relevant to our readers.
An optimist would say we're just utilizing a popular new medium to give our readers more of what we think we're interested in.
Personally, it expands my coverage of the beat. Reporting a news story is a time consuming ordeal, with all the interviews, fact checking, data gathering etc. But having an opinion or simply suggesting to readers that 'hey, this is interesting,' is easy. Plus, sometimes other writers simply write something better than I would've done so it's fair to point readers toward that."
The one challenge for these new blogs is not content, because the drug industry provides a never ending flow of fantastic stories. The challenge is getting and retaining readers.
Most people have a set number of friends, and they don’t have time for more friends. So even if a “better” friend comes around, they often stick with the old ones. Newspapers and blogs work the same way. People only have time to read a certain number of them, which makes it hard to break into this market.
But, I do hope this works out for both Brandweek and Star Ledger; after all, blog postings with attitude are a lot more fun to read than many regular articles. And that may be part of the reason the blog world has exploded and professional journalists are now becoming professional bloggers.
Makes me wonder when someone will acquire the PharmaGossip brand and get a jump on everyone else, after all PR blog Strumpette recently put itself up for sale . . .
And hey, maybe one day I'll have a new job getting paid for blogging. Now that would be really good news. After all, writing books is really painful, like eating healthy food, and blogging is this easy, addictive, distraction, kind of like crack cocain.