Lights! Camera! Patient education! J&J introduces the drug-umentary – and critics pounce

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Johnson & Johnson is pioneering a new form of DTC with an hour-long documentary film on patients living with inflammatory diseases. However, the film is already drawing flak from critics who argue it blurs the lines between patient education and self-interest. The 60-minute film, sponsored by J&J’s Centocor, which makes Remicade, and titled “Innerstate,” is set to debut in New York later this month. The film follows three adults dealing with psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn’s disease, and shows them weighing treatment options, though no products are discussed by name in the film. Michael Parks, spokesman for J&J’s Centocor unit which makes Remicade and produced the film, defended the effort in a Reuters news report. “This is definitely not a 60-minute infomercial,” Parks told Reuters. “The intent is really to educate patients in a meaningful way.” Parks said the film allows patients to discuss the process they went through before making the decision to use advanced therapies. “Every single patient talks about the exploration – how they tried other things that didn’t work,” Parks said. He told Reuters the film reflects J&J’s move away from brand-specific TV advertising, noting that no drugs are mentioned by name in the film. Visitors to the film’s Web site, www.myinnerstate.com/, can find product info for Remicade, but only after clicking through many pages. But the idea of a documentary produced by a drug company has troubled some doctors. “This is a whole new dimension in direct-to-consumer advertising,” Harvard researcher Dr. Jerry Avorn told Reuters. “What makes me edgy about it is if it is going to be a commercial, you should know it’s a commercial. I’m very troubled by the blurring of the lines between advertising and patient education.” The movie will show at movie theaters in 14 US markets, followed by health fairs featuring local experts on the diseases discussed in the film. In addition, the company is in talks with Blockbuster and other movie rental chains about a distribution deal, whereby DVDs of the film would be sent to customers requesting it free of charge. A trailer for "Innerstate" is available on YouTube at: www.youtube.com/watch?v=pu_I381WxZE. J&J’s cinematic push comes at a time of increasing competition in the market for therapies like Remicade, which suppresses tumor necrosis factor-alpha, a protein that plays a key role in inflammation. Remicade treatment can cost from $18,000 to $21,000 a year. Other drugs in the class include Amgen’s Enbrel and Abbott’s Humira.
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