The sale of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to women is a multi-billion dollar cash cow for the pharmaceutical industry. What will its PR machine do in the face of evidence that long-term HRT use increases women's risk of blood clots, strokes, heart attacks, breast cancer, and dementia, and has no quality of life benefits?
"When the House voted last week to let Americans import less expensive medicines from Canada and Europe, 53 senators signed a letter opposing the legislation, a letter that the industry trade group, which vigorously opposed the measure, hailed as proof of its argument that the bill would jeopardize patient safety," the New York Times' Sheryl Gay Stolberg reports. "What the trade group, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers Association, did not say, at the time, was that it helped coordinate the signature campaign. ...
The Traditional Values Coalition, which bills itself as a Christian advocacy group, has received money behind the scenes from the pharmaceutical industry to campaign against legislation that would enable U.S. citizens to import low-cost prescription drugs from countries like Canada. The drug industry opposes the law because it would undercut the high prices they charge in the U.S.
A bipartisan group of lawmakers has condemned a radio scare campaign sponsored by the U.S. pharmaceutical industry. "In a bid to defeat legislation that would allow the 'reimportation' of American-made drugs from Canada and Europe, a lobby group calling itself the Seniors Coalition is questioning the safety of Canadian and European prescription drugs," the Toronto Star reports. Reimported drugs are cheaper for seniors to buy. The legislation is part of the $400 billion, 10-year overhaul of the Medicare.
Clinical trials showed that ViroPharma's anti-cold drug, pleconaril, was little better than a placebo in clinical trials, but that didn't stop hundreds of newspapers from hyping it as a miracle cure. "It fell far short of what any rational person would call a cure," observes Gary Schwitzer. "Yet hundreds of journalists called pleconaril just that - and more - in hundreds of news stories before the drug was ever submitted to the FDA for approval. ... Journalists used an array of superlative terms for the drug -cure, miracle, wonder drug, super drug, a medical first.
"America's big drug companies are intensifying their lobbying efforts to 'change the Canadian health-care system' and eliminate subsidized prescription drug prices enjoyed by Canadians," CanWest News Service reports. "A prescription drug industry spokesman in Washington confirmed to CanWest News Service that information contained in confidential industry documents is accurate and that $1 million US is being added to the already heavily funded drug lobby against the Canadian system."
"Few doctors have heard of the world's leading medical public relations companies - Edelman, Ruder Finn, Noonan/Russo Presence, the Shire Health Group, and Medical Action Communications, among others," write Bob Burton and Andy Rowell in the British Medical Journal.
"Documents released yesterday in the case of a drug company
whistle-blower shed light on how extensively doctors were
involved in promoting unapproved uses of a Warner-Lambert
drug, Neurontin. Warner-Lambert paid dozens of doctors tens of thousands of dollars each to speak to other physicians about how Neurontin, an epilepsy drug, could be prescribed for more
than a dozen other medical uses that had not been approved
by the Food and Drug Administration. The top speaker for
The Sydney Morning Herald reports that a booklet put out by the Australasian Menopause Society that "suggested [hormone replacement therapy] could prevent heart disease, Alzheimer's and ageing skin, yet ... failed to mention the established side-effect of blood clots, or the accumulating evidence that the drugs were causing heart disease" was drafted by HRT manufacturer, Wyeth, and its PR firm, Hill & Knowlton. HRT's revenues for Wyeth are $3 billion a year.
"Media have been quick to declare the U.S. war against Iraq a success, but
in-depth investigative reporting about the war's likely health and
environmental consequences has been scarce," media watchdog Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting writes. "Two important issues getting
shortchanged in the press are the U.S.'s controversial use of cluster