Pharmaceuticals

Amgen Website Invites Testimonials, Posts Off-Label Claims By Patients

This screenshot from the "Protect Cancer Patients" website shows what it looked like before "The Cancer Letter" exposed its solicitation and publication of patient testimonials without proper scientific evidence to support them. The company has subsequently removed the testimonials.To mobilize elderly Americans in an effort to overturn the new Medicare coverage policy for erythropoiesis-stimulating agents (ESAs, which boost red blood cell production), Amgen Inc. appears to have borrowed a strategy from the purveyors of alternative medicine.

The company launched a "Protect Cancer Patients" website, where visitors were invited to submit testimonials about the healing powers of ESAs. Also, they could contact members of Congress, or review the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services coverage decision and the House and Senate resolutions to vacate it.

Though the Internet designation ".org" suggests that the site is operated by an advocacy group, the "privacy policy" section notes that "this site is owned and operated by Amgen Inc." and can be used for communications with the company.

On the home page, the site is described as "online headquarters of a national campaign to protect cancer patients on Medicare from a decision denying them ... coverage for needed medicines."

"Amgen's mission is to serve patients, which is why we openly support the Protect Cancer Patients website," Kelley Davenport, an Amgen spokesman, said in an email. "The site educates cancer patients on Medicare and their caregivers about a Medicare policy that impacts cancer patients, so that their voices and concerns are heard by government policymakers.

Lights, Camera, PhRMA

Buffeted by bad press from recalls of dangerous drugs and public bitterness over high drug prices, the drug industry has decided to cure its ailing image by sponsoring its own TV talk show, hosted by Billy Tauzin, the former GOP congressman who now heads the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA).

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Retail Research Is Hurting Science

Cartoon doctor"The biggest threat to science," writes Jennifer Washburn, is "the decline of government support ... and the growing dominance of private spending over American research." In 1965, the U.S. government funded more than 60 percent of research, while in 2006, 65 percent of research was privately funded.

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Fake Interviews for Everything?

"There's sensitivity to sponsored news right now," admits KEF Media Associates' Yvonne Goforth, adding that her firm is doing more to target satellite media tours (SMTs) -- sponsored and often scripted television "interviews" -- to local TV stations.

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Dressing Drug Advertising up as "Information"

Medical researchers Les Toop and Dee Mangin caution that the European Union (EU) should learn from the experience of New Zealand and reject proposals to allow direct-to-consumer advertising (DTC) of prescription drugs. For the last three years, the New Zealand government has been considering whether to ban or further restrict DTC advertising.

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Pill Pushers Avoid Advertising Restrictions

Congress has jettisoned proposed amendments to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) legislation that would have expanded the agency's powers over drug industry direct-to-consumer advertising campaigns promoting prescription drugs.

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Drugmakers Dying for Good Media Coverage?

Prescription pillsIn early September, "major newspapers reported the alarming news that suicides among young people were on the rise because of a precipitous drop in the use of antidepressants," writes Alison Bass. The academic study the news articles were based on concluded that new safety warnings for young people using antidepressant drugs had discouraged doctors from writing prescriptions for depressed youths.

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