April 28, 2006
‘Bitter Pill Awards’ announced
Consumer group Community Catalyst announced its second annual Bitter Pill Awards, skewering the makers of Lunesta, Ambien and Strattera, among others, for what it calls irresponsible marketing practices. The group wants a return to pre-1997 disclosure rules that would effectively wipe out consumer ads. Earlier this month, Community Catalyst called for an FDA ban on drug coupons, and the group wants the FDA to be granted greater resources and the power to leverage monetary penalties on noncompliant companies. Jerry Avorn, a Harvard Medical School professor, author and industry critic who sat in on the conference call announcing the awards, said DTC costs doctors valuable time with patients and introduces an adversarial cant to the doctor-patient relationship. “Asking how DTC can go on in a responsible way is a little like asking how wife-beating can go on in a responsible way,” said Avorn. This year’s honorees included: • Sepracor and Sanofi-Aventis with the “While You Were Sleeping Award” for their Lunesta and Ambien campaigns. • Pfizer and AstraZeneca with the “Got Cholesterol” campaign for Lipitor and Crestor, which Community Catalyst pronounced “me-too drugs.” • Lilly with the “Driven to Distraction Award” for Strattera, which a spokesperson for the group said “promoted a product designed to help consumers who are highly distractable by distracting them.” • PhRMA with the “Fox Guarding the Henhouse Award” and the “Truth Is Stranger Than Fiction Award,” for its DTC guidelines and an aborted venture into publishing, respectively. • MedVantx, which offers doctors samples of generic drugs, with the “Real Deal Award.” The Boston-based group scored some big press clippings with its debut Bitter Pill Awards, which coincided, as this year, with the DTC National conference.