Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Speaking of cutting costs....

Forest Pharmaceuticals Lexapro Marketing Plan, 2004 is now floating around the senate. In it are details on how Forest Pharmaceutical took a drug called Celexa licensed from Lundbeck, tweeked it, then sold it at a higher cost and made $2.3 billion dollars in sales. The marketing plan called for positioning Lexapro as superior to Celexa even though they were virtually the same drug. At the time, the FDA did not require them to prove this difference statistically.

It seems that Forest Pharmaceuticals have been very generous with putting money in Doctors pockets and food in their mouths. The article mentions that it is illegal to pay doctors to prescribe drugs, but not illegal to pay them to educate their colleagues about drugs. The article highlight the plan's strategy to put more money in the doctors pocket. From the article: “Rep Promotional Programs,” the document said the company planned to spend $34.7 million to pay 2,000 psychiatrists and primary care doctors to deliver 15,000 marketing lectures to their peers in one year.“These meetings may be large-scale dinner programs with a slide presentation, small roundtable discussions or one-on-one advocate lunches,” the document states.

Seems to me that this is one loop hole that should be shut, industry sponsored CME. Imagine all the money that could be saved. In this case $34.7 million dollars.....


  1. Let's hope that the 2004 marketing plan helps the senate understand the issues. Hopefully more States will find the incentive to move towards mandating complete transparency for Pharma.

    We need to level the playing field and make sure that every Pharma in every State are completely transparent with their CME funds and also in providing the information on any honorarium paid to physicians on their websites.

    Full disclosures with dollar amounts.

  2. Former;

    Industry funded CME has become a dodge of epic proportions. And complete transparency alone should arouse a nation wide protest leading to its eventual banning as I doubt greatly that it's an issue which even 1 in 1000 are aware of.

    Well said Sir.

  3. It is illegal to pay doctors to prescribe medicines, but legal to buy doctors who agree to prescribe them.

    Question: Who is in charge here?

  4. D. Bunker,

    I do think that some types of CME are worthy of support from industry. I am particularly fond of multisponsored CME events that help to present varied and as near possible, unbiased educational information.

    Even though I have included some of these types of CME events described in the article on Forest Pharmaceuticals, it seems to me that this was a bit excessive.

    Advisory Boards are another area that I think are acceptable. Industry must have opportunity to liaise with Key Opinion Leaders in the various disease categories.

    All this to say, my note may have sounded like all CME should be stopped. I think instead we and those still in the industry need to be more mindful about where the marketing money goes.


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