A whistle-blower's lawsuit has unearthed documents showing that the Warner-Lambert pharmaceutical company circumvented the Food and Drug Administration's drug approval process through a PR and advertising campaign. The company's internal memoranda show that it avoided the large clinical trials needed to gain government approval of off-label uses for Neurontin, an epilepsy medicine. Instead, the company paid for small studies and had the results published in medical journals. "The company also hired advertising agencies to help write the medical journal articles," reports Melody Petersen.
PR Watch has reported in the past on the questionable tactics of Bonner & Associates, which specializes in "astroturf" (artificial grassroots) organizing for corporate clients. Earlier this year, Jack Bonner was charged with ethics violations in Maryland, but the Maryland State Ethics Commission has cleared him of charges that he used deceptive tactics on behalf of the pharmaceutical industry.
"Some companies have repeatedly
disseminated misleading advertisements for prescription
drugs, even after being cited for violations, and millions
of people see the deceptive commercials before the
government tries to halt them, Congressional investigators
said today. The investigators, from the General Accounting Office, said
Pfizer, for example, had continued to make misleading
claims in advertisements for its cholesterol-lowering drug
Lipitor, despite several letters from the Food and Drug
"Do reporters know that so much medical news is actually unpaid advertising?" writes Diana Zuckerman, president of the National Center for Policy Research for Women & Families. "The most effective industry influence is so well-hidden that many reporters and producers are totally unaware of it. The role of pharmaceutical companies and other health care industry interests in shaping news coverage of medical products and treatment is as invisible as it is pervasive."
"Dentists leafing through The Journal of the American Dental
Association last May found a study concluding that a new
drug called Bextra offered relief from one of their
patients' worst nightmares - the acute pain that follows
dental surgery. Federal regulators had rejected that conclusion only six
months before, leaving Bextra's marketers, Pharmacia and
Pfizer, hard pressed to sell it as an advance over
Celebrex, their earlier entry in a crowded market for pain
drugs. The new study helped light a fire under Bextra. Its sales
"Having spent more than $30 million to help elect their allies to Congress, the major drug companies are devising ways to capitalize on their electoral success by securing favorable new legislation and countering the pressure that lawmakers in both parties feel to lower the cost of prescription drugs, industry officials say.
The Susan G. Komen Foundation and its fundraiser, the 5K Race for the Cure, have done much to raise awareness of breast cancer. Grassroots breast cancer advocates, however, are offended by the annual event, according to journalist Mary Ann Swissler in an in-depth article on the Komen Foundation for Southern Exposure Magazine. "The races, [critics] say, merely focus women on finding a medical cure for breast cancer, and away from environmental conditions causing it, the problems of the uninsured, and political influence of corporations over the average patient," Swissler writes.
Breast Cancer Action of San Francisco is one of the few cancer prevention groups willing to tackle the corporate connection to the causes and prevention of breast cancer, which has risen alarmingly. BCA has placed a "think before you pink" ad in today's New York Times asking "Who's really cleaning up here?
Congressional Democrats accuse the Bush Administration of stacking the Center for Disease Control's Advisory Committee on Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention with "individuals who are affiliated or openly sympathetic with the views of the lead industry." Their report "Turning Lead Into Gold: How the Bush Administration is Poisoning the Lead Advisory Committee at the CDC" details recent changes to the panel, noting the removal or rejection of several academic experts on lead poisoning.
After AIDS activists protested during a speech in Barcelona by US Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson, federal investigators were sent to investigate the groups and their finances. "Federal auditors are now swarming all over American-based AIDS-service organizations," writes John Aravosis.