Pharma bloggers collect their first heads at AZMike Zubillaga is no Dan Rather or Don Imus, but like them, he knows the detrimental impact a band of hostile bloggers can have on one’s job security.
Zubillaga, a regional sales director for oncology at AstraZeneca, became the subject of a “blogswarm” when Pfizer marketer-come-blogger Peter Rost posted an excerpt from an AstraZeneca internal newsletter in which Zubillaga compared performance bonuses to “a big bucket of money sitting in every [doctor’s] office.” Zubillaga also hinted that the company might promote Arimidex against Novartis’ Femara, which would represent a potential violation of AstraZeneca’s 2003 Corporate Integrity Agreement.
Other blogs, like BrandWeek’s BrandWeekNRx and The Star-Ledger’s Pharmalot, picked up the item. When Zubillaga was fired the next day, it was reported in The Philadelphia Inquirer.
The news, along with further allegations from Rost’s sources, a group of AstraZeneca employees calling themselves the “Gang of 7,” prompted Rep. Pete Stark to demand an OIG investigation.
“Unlike the old news cycle, which had a beginning, middle and end, the online media influence cycle is ongoing,” said Peter Pitts of the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest. “It never sleeps, and rather than burning out, as in olden days, it keeps going, changing form as it progresses. So there’s a need for both constant vigilance and increased engagement, because if you do not act aggressively to influence the information, you have no control.”