A new report analyzes the complex ways in which Belgian magazines deal with health information on the pharmaceutical industry supplied by PR practitioners. Based on content analysis of health items in a representative sample of magazines and interviews with magazine health journalists and their editors, the authors found that academic and medical experts were the most important sources for journalists. While the researchers found few explicit references to pharmaceutical industry sources, the interviews suggest that pharmaceutical PR creeps into health coverage in a more indirect and much more sophisticated manner, for instance by offering additional services such as contacts with scientists or patients. The authors concluded that the influence of pharmaceutical PR in magazine health news is stronger than would be expected based solely on quantitative analyses of editorial content.
Full citation: De Dobbelaer R , Van Leuven S, Raeymaeckers K. Dirty dancing: Health journalists and the pharmaceutical industry a multi-method study on the impact of pharma PR on magazine health. Public Relations Review (2017), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.pubrev.2017.02.002
As it readies for battle with President Donald Trump over drug prices, writes Pacific Standard, the pharmaceutical industry is deploying economists and health-care experts from the nation’s top universities. In scholarly articles, blogs, and conferences, they lend their prestige to the lobbying blitz, without always disclosing their corporate ties. Over the last three years, pharmaceutical companies have mounted a public relations blitz to tout new cures for the hepatitis C virus and persuade insurers, including government programs such as Medicare and Medicaid, to cover the costs. That isn’t an easy sell, because the price of the treatments ranges from $40,000 to $94,000 — or, because the treatments take three months, as much as $1,000 per day.
Big Pharma is striking back at Gov. Cuomo’s proposal to control the price of prescription drugs, reports the New York Daily News. The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America is set to launch a new campaign on Wednesday calling on state lawmakers to reject Cuomo’s plan, saying it will do nothing to improve patient access to needed prescription drugs while threatening research and development and New York jobs. The “Prescribe Real Solutions” campaign will include online ads, a new website and a series of events across the state urging New Yorkers to contact their legislators, those close to the effort say. State of Politics, meanwhile reports that Gov. Cuomo’s top health officials told state lawmakers that price control regulations will withstand legal challenges.
President Trump met with leaders of some of the world’s biggest pharmaceutical companies Tuesday and emphasized the need to lower “astronomical” drug prices, decrease regulations and bring more drug manufacturing into the United States, reports The Washington Post. Trump offered no specific policies, but mentioned increasing competition and “bidding wars” as a way to bring down prices. In the past, he has lashed out at the pharmaceutical industry for “getting away with murder” and threatened to use the government’s bargaining power to force down drug prices for programs like Medicare.
Public Citizen Response
In a response to this proposal, Michael Carome, Director of Public Citizen’s Health Research Group wrote:
President Donald Trump’s preposterous promise to pharmaceutical company CEOs to slash U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations by 75 to 80 percent would, if fulfilled, fundamentally destroy the ability of the agency to protect patients and consumers from unsafe or ineffective medications and medical devices, hazardous foods and dietary supplements, and dangerous tobacco products, among other things. The end result would be countless preventable deaths, injuries and illnesses across the U.S. Trump’s horrifying proposal reflects utter ignorance about the FDA’s essential role in protecting public health and once again demonstrates his commitment to placing corporate profits above protecting the safety of the American people.
Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro has urged Labor, Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Tom Cole to revoke his hold on the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Report: Prescription Drugs: Innovation, Spending, and Patient Access. “By blocking the American people from seeing the HHS Drug Price report, Chairman Cole is denying the public critical information on spiraling drug spending in Medicare, Medicaid, and other federal health programs.” The full report is available here. The report found that almost 10% of U.S. Adults aged 18-64 reported not taking drugs as prescribed because of the high costs.
“Patient advocacy” groups have a unique power on Capitol Hill, writes David Dayen in The Intercept. They claim to represent the true voice of constituents, untainted by special interest bias. Politicians and the Food and Drug Administration use their endorsements as reflective of genuine public support. But a new study shows that nearly all of these patient advocacy groups are captured by the drug industry. David Hilzenrath at the Project on Government Oversight (POGO) reports that at least 39 of 42 patient advocacy groups who participated in discussions with the FDA over agency review processes for prescription drugs received funding from pharmaceutical companies. And at least 15 have representatives of drug or biotechnology companies on their governing boards. The study is particularly notable now because Congress is poised to pass the 21st Century Cures Act, which trades temporary additional funding for the National Institutes of Health and the FDA for permanent weakening of the FDA’s approval process. Over 1,400 lobbyists have been working on this bill, which would be a major financial boon to the drug and medical device industries.
By Nicholas Freudenberg for the Symposium of the Geneesmiddelenbulletin on June 30th 2016 in Leiden ’Science and Economy’. It was also translated and published in the Bulletin.
In the last two decades, the public health community has generally agreed that the tobacco industry has no role in setting health policy or sponsoring research on tobacco. The Framework Convention on Tobacco Control bans industry participation in policy deliberations on Tobacco, most major global public health organizations and national health departments have sharply limited their interactions with representatives of the tobacco industry, and many universities and some journals no longer accept or publish research supported by the tobacco industry.
However, no such agreement has been reached on the appropriate role for corporations and trade associations in other sectors such as pharmaceuticals, food and beverages, and alcohol. Some health and business analysts emphasize that the different roles that the products of the tobacco, medicines, food and alcohol industries play in patterns of health and disease make any judgments inappropriate and misguided, especially in the case of the drug industry. “Such comparisons (between the tobacco and pharmaceutical industries) are not just absurd, they are irresponsible as they contribute to patients not taking prescribed medicines that can clearly benefit them”, wrote one former drug industry executive. Read more