Big Pharma

25 Aug: Lies about the safety of Canadian drugs

Chris Rice at OpEdNews is boiling mad about corrupting lobbyists and duplicitous politicians who have made it difficult for U.S. residents to buy drugs from Canadian pharmacies. Here’s an excerpt from his column: LIE: The Bush administration is fighting importation of cheaper prescription drugs from Canada by claiming they are unsafe and thereby protecting pharmaceutical companies who have given over $74 billion (or $2,033 per hour) [in contributions] since 2000. FACT: HHS and FDA officials cannot identify a single American injured as a result drugs purchased from licensed Canadian pharmacies. One of the nation’s leading health experts stated the administration’s argument was “hogwash” since “drugs purchased through the Canadian health care system are every bit as safe as those available…

20 Aug: Survey: Teens who abuse prescription drugs don’t buy them online

The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (CASA), last week issued a fascinating survey of teens. Two results stood out to me: 1. Teens (aged 12 to 17) indicated, for the first time, that it is easier to acquire “prescription drugs such as OxyContin, Percocet, Vicodin or Ritalin, without a prescription” than it is to buy beer. 2. While Internet pharmacies have been widely blamed for the increase in prescription drug abuse, few of the teens surveyed say that the drug abusers acquire their drugs from online pharmacies. That’s right. Here’s what CASA’s press release says: When teens who know prescription drug abusers were asked where those kids get their drugs: 31 percent said from friends…

07 Aug: Are suffix drugs a ripoff?

The Consumerist has been pulling plums from Dr. Edward Jardini’s How to Save on Prescription Drugs — and the latest has caused a bit of a firestorm on the blog. Specifically, the Consumerist says that “suffix drugs” — the kinds with letters like CD, CR, ER, LA, SR, XL, XR, or XT after the name — are usually just different versions of the same drug that vary only in how the drug releases in the body. The blog then says: By coming up with different variations on old drugs, pharmaceutical companies can keep the profits rolling on drugs whose patents have expired. Best of all, if they can get the doctor to write one of these letter sequences after the…

01 Aug: Natural career progression: from Hooters to pharma sales rep

I found it odd to stumble upon what is apparently a running column in the Lakeland (FL) Ledger called “Bartender Spotlight.” That’s right — it’s a series of profiles of local bartenders. I also found it interesting that the bartender the Ledger profiled on Thursday was 21-year-old Ashley Von Heal from “Hooters at 3400 US 98 North.” What I found highly predictable, however, is what Ashley wants to do for a living. Here’s the relevant excerpt: A marketing and sales major, she’d eventually like to become a pharma sales rep. Why pharmaceutical sales? “I can make pretty good money, plus I want to be able to travel while I’m still young.” Look, we’ll say it again — we have absolutely…

29 Jul: Follow eDrugSearch.com on Twitter

We’ve started a Twitter account and would love for you to follow us. If you’re not familiar with Twitter, it’s a social network built around a kind of mini-blogging or group IM tool that allows you to leave messages of up to 140 characters. Some of our favorite bloggers like John Mack, Jack Friday and Matthew Holt are already using it, so we thought we’d try it out, too. You can follow us here: https://twitter.com/carybyrd

28 Jul: Big Pharma dances on the FDA’s grave, part 2

I wrote the other day about the hypocrisy –not to mention true gall — that pharma apologists like Peter Pitts have shown in their attacks on licensed Canadian pharmacy drug reimportation. Essentially, Pitts argues that Americans should not be permitted to buy Canadian drugs because the FDA is incompetent to regulate these imports and keep the public safe. This is now the pharmaceutical industry’s leading argument against Canadian drugs. The exquisitely painful irony here, of course, is that Big Pharma has been leading the charge to de-fang (and then de-gum and de-tongue) the FDA for decades now. I like the analogy I used the other day, so I’ll use it again: It’s like a child murdering his parents — then…

28 Jul: Medicare Part D has been a great program for pharmaceutical companies

Jacob Goldstein at the Wall Street Journal Health Blog reported Friday: It was dueling reports yesterday on Capitol Hill, as Democrats argued that Medicare is paying way too much for prescription drugs and Republicans countered that the spending is on target. Henry Waxman, chairman of the House oversight committee and a longtime critic of the Medicare Part D drug benefit, … released [a] report, which looked at drug costs for so-called “dual eligible” patients whose drug coverage was switched from Medicaid to Medicare in 2006. The report found that Medicare Part D pays 30% more for drugs than Medicaid, a discrepancy worth more than $3.7 billion for drugmakers in 06 and 07. Not to be outdone, the Republicans on the…

23 Jul: Big Pharma steps up disinformation campaign against drug reimportation

You might think Big Pharma would give up its longstanding fight against Canadian pharmacy drug reimportation — now that both John McCain and Barack Obama vocally support it (not to mention 80 percent of the American public). You’d be wrong. As it turns out, Big Pharma believes it has a trump card in its bid to maintain its inflated drug profits by keeping out competition from abroad. That trump card: the incompetence of the FDA. The argument is outlined in this op-ed piece by Peter Pitts, president of the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest, which is funded by Big Pharma among other sources. Says Pitts: Several lawmakers have proposed allowing Americans to buy drugs from abroad. Since many…

22 Jul: Medicare Part D nightmares, continued

  We all know — or should know — by now that the Medicare prescription drug benefit (Medicare Part D) was crafted with the needs and convenience of Big Pharma, rather than patients, in mind. That’s why it’s so unwieldy for the consumer. The worst part about Medicare Part D is the so-called “doughnut hole,” described by the Wall Street Journal as “the notorious gap in coverage … where (beneficiaries) generally must begin paying the full cost of their medicines. The doughnut hole kicks in when total drug expenditures by the beneficiary and the plan reach $2,510.” Another egregious element of Medicare Part D, which has gotten less attention, is private “pharmacy benefit managers” charging Medicare beneficiaries MORE for prescription…

06 Jul: Why pharmaceutical companies want marijuana legalized

I came across a really interesting piece on AlterNet, detailing the efforts of Big Pharma to develop and patent cannabis-based medicines. Apparently, pharmaceutical companies think medical marijuana delivered as patented pills, oral sprays and in other forms could be a real cash cow. They think this benefit would more than offset any loss of revenues from people turning to roll-your-own solutions. Here’s an excerpt from the story: Big Pharma is busily applying for — and has already received — multiple patents for the medical properties of pot … … as the private sector continues to move forward with research into the safety and efficacy of marijuana-based pharmaceuticals, it will become harder and harder for the government and law enforcement to…

02 Jul: Will we have to hit bottom before we reform our healthcare system?

Drug addicts talk about having to “hit bottom” before they finally realize they have to do something about their problem. Are we about to see the U.S. healthcare system hit bottom? Today, UnitedHealth Group, the nation’s largest health insurer, cut its earnings forecast and said it would slash 4,000 jobs. Bloomberg reports: In the Medicare business for the elderly, for which UnitedHealth is the market leader, gross margins declined in plans that provide prescription drugs and specialized coverage for people with chronic diseases, the company said. The company forecast that its overall medical loss ratio, the percentage of premium revenue spent on medical care, would increase to 82.5 percent for the full year, up from its earlier prediction of 81.3…

23 Jun: Drug-interaction risk is real; don’t ignore it

Unfortunately, when we are contemplating taking a new prescription medication, too many of us don’t think about possible harmful interactions with the other drugs we’re taking. We treat the risk like all the fast-paced warnings at the end of pharmaceutical commercials — we ignore them. That’s dangerous — and in a world where many of us don’t have long-term relationships with a single doctor or pharmacy, it’s becoming all too common for us to fall into drug regimens where the individual medications either counter each other’s effects or create unexpected, and sometimes even deadly, side effects. That’s why Health 2.0 sites like DoubleCheckMD and PharmaSurveyor are so valuable; they allow you to enter medications and research possible interactions yourself. If…

23 Jun: What’s the difference between brand-name and generic drugs?

In the United States, we’re trained virtually from birth to value brand names — in fact, often to overvalue them. Did you know, for example, that when large corporations buy one another, they often have to pay millions — or even billions — of dollars for something accountants call “intangible assets”? One of these assets — called “goodwill” — can be thought of as the value of the brand. It reflects the profits a company makes over and above what you’d expect from the tangible assets alone, simply because of its reputation. Big pharmaceutical companies want you to buy into the value of brands when purchasing prescription medications — so you’ll pay more for them. That’s one of the reasons…

acid reflux drugs

12 Jun: Is the alphabet soup of acid reflux giving you heartburn of the brain?

  You’ve got persistent heartburn happening two or more days a week — something generally diagnosed as acid reflux disease these days. Which of the many available drugs should you take: Protonix Zegerid Nexium Prilosec Prevacid Or something else? Sounds confusing, doesn’t it? It isn’t, really. These drugs all do the same thing in basically the same way. And I hate to say it, but a big reason there are so many variations on the market has less to do with helping you than with lining the pockets of big pharmaceutical companies. You see, two of the best-selling acid reflux drugs — Prilosec and Nexium — are essentially the same drug marketed by the same company, AstraZeneca. Nexium is derived…

22 May: Don’t blame the Internet for prescription drug abuse

Yeah, I know; I’ve written about this topic before — more than a few times. But I feel compelled to do so again. Frankly, I’m mad as heck and I can’t take it any more. Just as there have been past hysterias blaming the Internet for sexual predators, pornography, political polarization, celebrity obsession, obesity (go outside and play!) and every other social malady facing our nation, now it seems the media is whipping itself into a frenzy over the dangers of Internet pharmacies for prescription drug abuse. The latest blog post I flagged on this topic, “Internet Pharmacy Websites the New Drug Dealers,” referenced a sad tale on CNN.com headlined, “My husband died from online drugs.” Don’t get me wrong….

20 May: Audio of Glaxo CEO meltdown

GlaxoSmithKline CEO JP Garnier is grilled relentlessly by a BCC radio reporter about the suppression of data that suggested the anti-depressant Paxil (Seroxat in the U.K.) increased the likelihood of teen suicides — and finally walks out of the interview. Here’s the 10-minute clip; the meltdown starts at about the seven-minute mark: More on the interview from Furious Seasons. More on Garnier here.

20 May: Reclast’s “jaw problems” caused by too many warnings.

Retired physician John R. Agnew has an amusing take on Big Pharma’s bombardment of consumers with DTC advertising. Writes Agnew: The drug commercials seem to me to be insulting. They overstate the benefits, minimize the side effects and ignore the cost: “Panacea is not for everyone,” they warn. “Let your doctor know if you have liver disease (he is too dumb to figure it out for himself) or are allergic to this drug (which you wouldn’t know in advance anyway). Side effects include fainting, jaundice, suicidal thoughts, constipation and sudden death. Do not operate heavy machinery after taking the first dose, and tell your doctor right away if you are dying”… My favorite is Reclast, a once-a-year treatment for osteoporosis….

20 May: The latest verdict against Accutane

Last month, a New Jersey jury awarded a Utah woman named Kamie Kendall $10.5 million for damage done by the acne drug Accutane, one of a series of recent successful lawsuits against the drug’s maker, Hoffman-LaRoche, Inc. The court found that Hoffman-LaRoche did not adequately warn consumers of the drug’s risks and side effects. A lawyer on the winning side states: It’s a very dangerous drug – it causes birth defects, it causes psychosis, it causes IBD. When you’ve got a drug like this you shouldn’t mince words at all, which is at the heart of the case. No question that’s been our point, and in three cases, we’ve won $2.5 million, then just over $7 million, then now almost…

09 May: Best stoner flick: Harold & Kumar — or Celebrex ad?

I keep hoping it will go away (after all, it’s been around for over a year), but I can’t seem to escape that two-minute-plus Celebrex ad with a bunch of freaky faceless people bicycling, drinking tea, painting fences, reading the newspaper, swimming with the fishes, dancing under the stars, and playing frisbee with the dog in slow motion. I guess I must be watching channels for the arthritis demo, like AMC, a little too often. With the slo-mo and totally weird vibe of the ad, I’ve been thinking of pulling the ad into my video editing software and laying on a new soundtrack that would be more appropriate to the visuals. Here are my candidates: Lucy in the Sky with…

30 Apr: Do I have a chip on my shoulder? Maybe a little bit…

The Texas Startup Blog was kind enough to run a post by me on what it’s like to be a Health 2.0 startup from South Texas. Here’s an excerpt: “I live in Spring Branch, Texas — not Silicon Valley, Silicon Alley or even Austin. I don’t particularly like small talk, about Web 2.0 or anything else. I haven’t prepared a PowerPoint deck full of made-up numbers showing my company’s path to $100 million in three years. I’ve self-funded my company rather than seeking VC funding — which means I don’t have to play the BS game and, more importantly, can build my business without interference. “The result of all this is that, to some people, my startup and I are…

26 Apr: Drug commercial parodies — a roundup

As you know, we like to post links to parodies of pharmaceutical commercials. Rather than publish these individually, though, I thought I’d provide all these links in a single roundup post. Here are some popular parodies of current drug ads — one for each drug. (Be warned that some of them are a little off-color.) Enjoy! Zoloft Viagra Cialis Mirapex (restless leg syndrome) Lipitor Valtrex

26 Apr: “Your secret is safe … with Valtrex”

This drug parody ad makes an interesting point. Ads with a tagline of “Your secret is safe with Valtrex” actually might be a more effective way for GlaxoSmithKline to market the drug, considering how many herpes sufferers are reticent to share their condition with their partners. The ads could be done by the same agency that does the “What Happens in Vegas Stays in Vegas” ads. It would be morally and ethically WRONG, of course — but we are talking about Big Pharma here. It would at least be more true to life than the current overly-earnest approach — always featuring both partners smiling and talking pleasantly to the camera. A good shouting match might be more appropriate. People really…

20 Apr: Zyrtec slaps down Claritin in guerrilla marketing war

Finally — pharmaceutical advertising on a budget! Yeah, I know I’m late to the party on this one, but I wanted to chime in: Love this campaign. Compared to the shlock we usually get from Big Pharma, it’s a breath of fresh air (so to speak). Read more here. Also here are some prices comparisons: Claritin prices vs Zyrtec prices. However, in price Claritin is the clear winner!

29 Mar: Personal finance writer Scott Burns offers good healthcare advice, too

Scott Burns is one of the best-read personal finance writers in the United States. I recently came across some thoughts on healthcare Scott shared at AssetBuilder.com, an investment site. Scott is chief investment strategist for AssetBuilder, a Registered Investment Advisor. Scott received the following opinion/query from one of his readers: I believe we should have a nationalized health insurance system based on the Canadian/French Health Care System. Both countries have longer life expectancies, pay less for their health care, and express greater satisfaction with their systems, in polls, than ours. As to “market based” plans, which are put forth as a solution, these would not help people such as me as I have a pre-existing health condition, Charcot-Marie-Tooth. I inherited…

21 Mar: Online prescription drugs: To buy or not to buy?

Here’s a nice video from Employment Crossing with tips on buying prescription drugs online. The one caveat we would add is that the FDA should not be your be-all-and-end-all in determining how, where and what to purchase online. It’s one data point to consider, but as we’ve shown time and again, it is a flawed one.

17 Mar: The FDA can’t protect you; this is why you need to protect yourself

In an article today excoriating the FDA for its regulation of prescription drugs, the New York Times reports: The Institute of Medicine, the Government Accountability Office and the F.D.A.’s own Science Board have all issued reports saying poor management and scientific inadequacies make the agency incapable of protecting the country against unsafe drugs, medical devices and food. Indeed, in the years since the last China drug scandal [in 1999], the share of drugs coming from that country has soared while the F.D.A.’s inspections of overseas drug plants have dropped. There are 566 plants in China that export drugs to the United States, but the agency inspected just 13 of them last year. The agency does not have the money to…

08 Mar: eDrugSearch Community has strong feelings about pharma lawsuits

We’re pleased to say that Tom Lamb at Drug Injury Watch is a member of the eDrugSearch.com Community. He wasted no time after joining in stirring up a little controversy, posing the following question: Do you think that this “federal preemption” of drug injury cases is a good idea or bad policy? Among the responses of community members (which you can see in their entirety here): It would be horrible policy, because as we all know, the FDA no longer has teeth and is basically run by the pharmaceutical industry. If you then say the pharma companies can’t be sued because of FDA approval, you turn the system into a sick (pardon the pun) joke… If these drugs are unsafe…

04 Feb: A Digg for pharma news

From Germany comes this press release: World Pharma News project is launching a Web 2.0 pharmaceutical news platform, named as well World Pharma News but with attached ‘.net’ extension. Web 2.0 generally represents knowledge-oriented social-networking platforms focused first of all on collaborative approaches. “We know that it is a very ambitious initiative but we trust in the power and in the flexibility of the coming Web 2.0 pharmaceutical solutions/interfaces, we sincerely hope that in the nearest future the term ‘Pharma 2.0’ will sound as well appropriate as the terms Web 2.0 or Health 2.0”, assumed World Pharma News .net administrator. World Pharma News .net, by being based on the well known open source software, is following the Web 2.0 strategy…

28 Jan: Matthew Holt and Indu Subaiya discuss the companies to watch in 2008

Matthew Holt and Indu Subaiya are the chief organizers of the Health 2.0 Connecting Consumers and Providers conference, which will take place March 3-4 in San Diego. Matthew is a healthcare strategist and author of perhaps the industry’s most influential blog, The Health Care Blog. Indu is an MD and founder of Etude Scientific, which consults with healthcare and life science companies on new ventures. This is our fifth published interview in our series leading up to the event. So far, we’ve talked with Scott Shreeve of Crossover Health , Ed Silverman of Pharmalot, Fard Johnmar of HealthcareVox, and Jane Sarasohn-Kahn of Think-Health and the Health Populi blog. Here’s our interview with Matthew and Indu: Q: In our interview with…

23 Jan: Even PhRMA can’t spin this

From O’Dwyer’s PR Blog: The Vytorin controversy is just icing on a (low cholesterol) cake for those upset with the barrage of drug advertising, and the promotion of “quasi diseases” by big pharmaceutical houses. It’s a safe bet the Congress is going to step up efforts to regulate the marketing practices of prescription drugs. Bart Stupak, chair of the Energy and Commerce investigations subcommittee told the WSJ that is sick and tired on seeing “puffing, advertising based on untrue facts or facts that can’t be substantiated, medical, ethically or legally.” Ouch. Even the Rx industry’s trade group, Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, is raising the white flag. Chief Billy Tauzin admits that some of the criticism of the industry…

23 Jan: Merck and Schering-Plough: partners in slime

Oh what fun it is to cover Big Pharma. First we get the Wall Street Journal crediting Peter Rost and BrandweekNRX for breaking an insider trading scandal at Schering-Plough. Then we get Merck and Schering-Plough pulling their popular “two sources of cholesterol” commercials from television because Vytorin apparently does not reduce the buildup of fatty plaque as claimed. As Media Orchard puts it, there are Two Ways to Get Egg on Your Face 1. You can crack one open. 2. You can be Merck CEO Richard Clark.

21 Jan: Ad Age: Drug companies are begging for heightened regulation

Double whammy for Big Pharma in Advertising Age today. First, a story headlined “Vytorin Ad Shame Taints Entire Marketing Industry” — an excerpt: Reports that [as] Merck & Co. and Schering-Plough Corp. kept under wraps for more than a year findings that Vytorin does not deliver results it spent more than $100 million advertising to consumers is much more than a PR disaster for the drug’s co-marketers. Coming on the heels of a New York Times story that Pfizer’s $2 billion drug Lyrica treats a condition, fibromyalgia, that a lot of doctors don’t think exists, the Vytorin news is fanning the flames of public mistrust for the $5 billion direct-to-consumer drug industry — and the ad business in general. “The…

20 Jan: The dangers of anti-depressants

Fox News ran a provocative story Thursday slamming Big Pharma for overhyping the benefits — and downplaying the dangers — of anti-depressants such as Paxil, Zoloft, Prozac and Effexor. You can read the transcript here or watch the piece below. Frankly, it’s surprising to me to see this kind of anti-Big Pharma slant from Fox News. We’ll see where they go with the story.

14 Jan: Want new drugs? Make your own

‘Cause Big Pharma sure isn’t coming up with anything. According to PRWeek: Only twice in the past three decades has the Food and Drug Administration approved fewer than the 18 it gave a thumbs up to in 2007. Compare that to 53 drugs in 1996. Oddly, the FDA said they hadn’t finished tallying numbers for the year and wouldn’t release its final statistics until March. Pipelines are dry indeed.

13 Jan: “Psychological Kevlar” for U.S. troops in Iraq?

AlterNet reports that Big Pharma is promoting the use of a “mourning after pill” and other medications to help numb U.S. soldiers to the horrors of war — giving troops so-called “psychological Kevlar.” An excerpt: Propranalol, if taken immediately following a traumatic event, can subdue a victim’s stress response and so soften his or her perception of the memory. That does not mean the memory has been erased, but proponents claim that the drug can render it emotionally toothless… But is it moral to weaken memories of horrendous acts a person has committed? Some would say that there is no difference between offering injured soldiers penicillin to prevent an infection and giving a drug that prevents them from suffering from…

07 Jan: If you want to fix the healthcare system, don’t vote for Mitt Romney

Just watch this exchange between John McCain and Mitt Romney in the most recent New Hampshire debate over drug reimportation and the power of Big Pharma. It’s clear that if Romney is elected, he’ll do nothing to reform our broken healthcare system. To say big drug companies are “doing the work of the free market” but to support protectionism so they won’t have to face competition is patently hypocritical.