Hot Flash, Cold Cash

"Last April, several hundred black-tie and couture-clad worthies crowded into the ornate ballroom of the Washington Ritz-Carlton for one more dinner on the spring charity circuit," writes Alicia Mundy - namely, the annual gala of the once-respected Society for Women's Health Research (SWHR), a Washington, DC-based nonprofit organization whose stated mission is "to improve the health of women through research." In recent years, however, SWHR has become increasingly dependent on corporation contributions from pharmaceutical companies.


Pentagon Denies That Depleted Uranium Keeps On Killing

"If war again comes to Iraq, depleted uranium munitions will be a mainstay of the American arsenal. For years, the Pentagon has discounted reports that the shells and bullets, made of solid nuclear-waste byproduct and used for the first time on a large scale in the Iraq war, bore calamity. ... 'There just isn't any scientific foundation to draw a connection between exposure and the incidents of leukemia, other cancers or birth defects,' said Michael Kilpatrick, deputy director of deployment health support at the Pentagon. ...


PR-Inflicted Nightmare Hits Cell Therapeutics

"A public-relations firm is dealing with a public-relations nightmare
after unintentionally e-mailing journalists and others documents about
one of its clients, Seattle-based Cell Therapeutics.
The mass e-mail from Shepardson Stern + Kaminsky on Wednesday revealed
the candid views of Cell Therapeutics managers and outside analysts on
the strengths and weaknesses of the biotechnology company. SS+K asserts


Astroturf Ethics

After a recent article in the British Medical Journal detailed drug company sponsorship of medical meetings on "female sexual dysfunction," a PR firm with clients in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industry has launched a global campaign to "counter" the BMJ report. Michelle Lerner of the HCC De Facto PR firm said it would "violate ethical guidelines" to disclose the identity of her client.


Spin Doctors Prescribe the Wrong Medicine

"It's no easy job to save market share for expensive antihypertensive drugs when headlines read 'When Cheaper Is Also Better,'" writes Jeanne Lenzer. A major new study shows that the expensive drugs used to treat hypertension "were no better than a diuretic.


Are You Horny, Baby? Or Are You Sick?

Hoping to create another cash cow like Viagra, the pharmaceutical industry has invented a new disease "female sexual dysfunction." According to journalist Ray Moynihan, industry-funded doctors are circulating a bogus statistic claiming that 43% of women suffer from this condition so they can prescribe drugs to treat it - even though "inhibition of sexual desire is in many situations a healthy and functional response for women faced with stress, tiredness, or threatening patterns of behaviour from their partners." And just to make sure the guys can keep up, one of the doctors is also


Drug Firms, Doctors, Defend Kickbacks and Bribes As Legal and Normal

"Drug companies and doctors are
fighting a Bush administration plan to restrict gifts and
other rewards that pharmaceutical manufacturers give
doctors and insurers to encourage the prescribing of
particular drugs. ... In contending that the proposed federal code of conduct
would require radical changes, those opposing the change
discuss their tactics with unusual candor and describe
marketing practices that have long been shrouded in
secrecy. Drug makers acknowledged, for example, that they routinely


Memos Cast Shadow on Drug's Promotion

A whistle-blower's lawsuit has unearthed documents showing that the Warner-Lambert pharmaceutical company circumvented the Food and Drug Administration's drug approval process through a PR and advertising campaign. The company's internal memoranda show that it avoided the large clinical trials needed to gain government approval of off-label uses for Neurontin, an epilepsy medicine. Instead, the company paid for small studies and had the results published in medical journals. "The company also hired advertising agencies to help write the medical journal articles," reports Melody Petersen.


Bonner Beats Rap for Astroturf Lobbying

PR Watch has reported in the past on the questionable tactics of Bonner & Associates, which specializes in "astroturf" (artificial grassroots) organizing for corporate clients. Earlier this year, Jack Bonner was charged with ethics violations in Maryland, but the Maryland State Ethics Commission has cleared him of charges that he used deceptive tactics on behalf of the pharmaceutical industry.



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