December 19

“Big Bucks, Big Pharma” Video documentary

A 5 minute video documentary, "Big Bucks, Big Pharma," posted on Google by Media Education Information, focuses on how the prescription drug industry markets disease to push drugs.

Industry's influence on medicine is shown in a sampling of direct to consumer drug ads and the suggestion that drug companies use insidious "invisible" ways to influence doctors.

The video attempts to show viewers how pharmaceutical advertising glamorizes and normalizes the use of prescription drugs; how direct to consumer advertising works in tandem with promotion to doctors.

The video features interviews with: Dr. Marcia Angell (Dept. of Social Medicine, Harvard Medical School and former Editor New England Journal of Medicine), Dr. Bob Goodman (Columbia University Medical Center; Founder, No Free Lunch), Gene Carbona (Former Pharmaceutical Industry Insider and Current Executive Director of Sales, The Medical Letter), Katharine Greider (Journalist; Author, The Big Fix: How the Pharmaceutical Industry Rips Off American Consumers,), Dr. Elizabeth Preston (Dept. of Communication, Westfield State College), and Dr. Larry Sasich (Public Citizen).

Meanwhile, industry is revving up for even greater influence at the FDA:
PDUFA–the 1992 act that brought the FDA pharmaceutical money (drug user
fees) to review drug safety and efficacy data prior to approval, is up for renewal.

"The agency called for a separate new user fee program to cover DTC TV ad
reviews in its proposed outline for reauthorization of the Prescription Drug
User Fee Act. The agency’s plan would raise user fees under the existing
program by $87.4 million to $392.8 million annually in order to fund an
expanded drug safety programming, increased screening of DTC ads and the
agency’s Critical Path initiative."

FDA seeks $6.25 million to hire 27 FTE staff to review DTC -TV ads. 
But as our skeptical colleague, John Mack, points out on his Pharma
Marketing Blog (January 17, 2007):

"FTE or Payola?  I doubt FDA will actually pay staffers anywhere near that
amount. A substantial portion of the $6.25 million, therefore, must be pure
payola — and I mean that literally! Want your ad to play on TV? Then you
got to pay, baby. Of course, "these new fees," says FDA, "would be …
collected only from those companies that intend to seek FDA advisory reviews
of DTC television advertisements." Pity the fool that isn't with the

Contact: Vera Hassner Sharav


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