Tag Archives: pfizer

Foundation lived by big pharma, now dies by big pharma

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

Kris Hundley of the St. Petersburg Times reports that the Ischemia Research and Education Foundation, which maintained a massive patient care database intended to prevent heart attacks and strokes during and after surgery, is teetering on the brink of financial collapse. While his foundation relied on drug company grants for much of its funding, “monumentally stubborn and notoriously prickly” founder and leader Dr. Dennis Mangano insisted on IREF’s right to publish any and all of its findings, a move he said maintained its independence.

Despite its ties to pharmaceutical companies, Mangano’s foundation made some impressive discoveries, Hundley lists a few highlights:

He found that taking low-cost aspirin after bypass surgery reduces the risk of heart attack. He sounded the alarm about the deadly risks of using Bayer’s drug Trasylol to control bleeding during bypass surgery — nearly two years before the FDA suspended marketing of the drug.

And he warned that Pfizer’s painkiller, Bextra, raised the risk of heart attack and stroke in bypass patients. Bextra was pulled from the market in 2005.

The relationship between pharmaceutical companies and IREF seems to have always been an uneasy one. IREF’s recent troubles began when a rogue employee shared data with Pfizer for which the drug giant would otherwise have had to pay $15 million to $20 million. Mangano refused to settle with the company, instead taking it to court and winning damages totaling almost $60 million.

Now, a judge’s ruling has given Pfizer a second chance and Mangano says he can’t afford to match Pfizer’s resources in the courtroom a second time. He says his suit against Pfizer has made him a “persona non grata” in the pharmaceutical industry and thus cut off what used to be the foundation’s primary source of funding. IREF has gone from 80 employees to just three, and is bleeding money at an unsustainable rate.

Pfizer tentatively tackles tweets

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

James Chase reports in Medical Marketing & Media that Pfizer has opened a Twitter account, @pfizer_news. The pharmaceutical behemoth will use the microblogging service for interacting and opening dialog with customers, rather than for product promotion or advertising, Chase reports. While Pfizer has been monitoring Twitter for months, executives were afraid to engage directly for fear that they would be “ripped to shreds” by the Twitterati.twitter_logo

“We’re trying to become transparent, but we’re doing it slowly and cautiously,” said (Ray Kerins, VP worldwide communications). “For us to jump in with two feet would be stupid. The first task was to get the communications team cleaned up because we’ve had a bad rap in that area.”

Pfizer hopes to increase its social media presence, but plans to do so cautiously and in gradual steps.

For now, Pfizer’s media relations team is charged with controlling all corporate tweeting, but Kerins said he hopes to expand the pool soon. “I would love to have by the end of the summer 100 people, from medical to public affairs, who have been anointed by the company and who can go out and Twitter.”

As of Monday morning (July 27), @Pfizer_News had gained 565 followers and was in turn following 225 users, many of them major media outlets.

Panel: Is media to blame for pharma’s poor image?

Several months ago, Ray Kerins, a top Pfizer public relations exec, bemoaned the perception of the pharmaceutical industry in a speech that was widely viewed on the Internet. Here’s what he said:

“When we’re dealing with the media, I see a problem. If we’re not willing to engage, we only have ourselves to blame. I blame myself and those of us in the industry for the bad reputation the pharmaceutical industry has. We develop life-saving medicines that you take, that will prolong your life, that will help cure certain diseases. How in the hell do we have such a bad reputation? It makes no sense.”

He then disclosed that, prior to his arrival at Pfizer, the PR team routinely ignored initial media calls.

Of course, such policies only contributed to a larger problem – the growing debate over pricing, promotional practices and safety concerns that have been at the center of several controversies over the past few years. From ghostwritten journal articles and hidden clinical trial data to surreptitious funding of advocacy groups and senior citizens unable to afford their meds, the pharmaceutical industry has found itself on the defensive. The tales have played out in court, at congressional hearings and in the media.

But does the media really have it right? Are drug makers, basically, well-behaved entities, not counting some regrettable lapses? Or does the pharmaceutical industry hide behind its right to make profits as an excuse for failing to adopt more palatable business practices?

To explore the issue, the 6th World Conference of Science Journalists next month will hold a panel discussion at its conference in the UK on whether the industry’s image reflects the reality of self-inflicted wounds or the trumped-up product of journalists who are seeking a villain. Does that sound familiar? It should to our regular readers — a similar panel is planned in November in Monaco at the annual meeting of the International Forum on Mood and Anxiety Disorders.

And the panel has some interesting members: Vera Hassner Sharav, a consumer activist and industry critics who runs the Alliance for Human Research Protection; John Ilman, a former journalist at various UK papers who now runs a pr crisis management firm that serves, in part, drugmakers; Michael Rawlins, the chairman of the UK’s National Institute of Health & Clinical Excellence, which is famous for rejecting government coverage of certain meds due to cost; and Paul Stoffels, who oversees global research and development for Johnson & Johnson.

Expect some fireworks.