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Much Love For Big Pharma In The Blogosphere?
It all started with a post from Instapundit, Glenn Reynolds, where he gave a big thank you to the pharmaceutical industry for developing life-saving medications.  A drug company executive sent him a note about his book, “An Army Of Davids” and he wrote him an e-mail back saying:

“BTW, we love Pfizer in my house because your exotic anti-arrhythmic drug Tikosyn has changed my wife's life. It's genuinely a miracle drug for her.”

The Pfizer researcher told Instapundit that he would pass on the information to “the guys in the lab” because they really need the praise. Instapundit replied: “It's kind of sad that such a small email means so much, but I suppose that these guys get a lot more criticism than praise, despite the miracles they produce. But it occurs to me that -- while so-called "Big Pharma" may not be perfect -- drug companies have done a lot more to make my life better than their critics have. Maybe someone should point that out more often.” The bloggers at Ignite Health picked up the story with a post featuring an article from ePharm5.  The publication doubts the veracity of Instapundit’s remarks.  According to the article:

“We wonder if this is proof that the industry's reputation is slowly improving. If it is, these kinds of posts are what will make a difference in altering the reputation of the industry. However, ePharm also is aware that the industry hires third parties to monitor blogs in order to gauge consumer attitudes and company reputation. . . Yesterday's blog, which has several posts from other bloggers, is an example of one or the other or even both. Pfizer is reportedly using software to monitor blogs and user-generated-content (ePharm5, 6/1/05) and is likely aware of this blog interchange. However, we thought the industry would find the posts interesting.”

A Sampling Of Supportive Commentary

Despite ePharm5’s skepticism about whether Instapundit is a “stealth blogger,” there is no doubt that his comments are genuine and unsolicited.  What’s most interesting here the discussion his post has generated about the pharmaceutical industry throughout the blogosphere.  For example, TigerHawk’s blog post on Instapundit’s remarks currently has 43 comments, and Ignite Health’s has 25.   Following is a sampling of the positive comments the industry has received.

Positive Commentary (Ignite Blog)

"I can honestly state that if it wasn't for a few of big pharma's products, my life would probably be in shambles. So I join the collective voices here to say, for once, can we give big pharma a friggin' break?!"

“I take pills, developed by "Big Pharma" to control [my] tremors. Without those pills I am unable to eat with a fork or spoon, I can't keep food on them long enough to hit my mouth. I will be sixty my next birthday, without those pills I would already be in the nursing home. Or looking up at the wrong side of the grass.  I owe more to my pharmaceutical companies and doctors than I do to the idiot politicos and journos who attack them.”
-Peter Davis

“If it's your rear on the line, it's cheap at any price. How much is your own life worth? God bless big pharma.”
-Strabo the Lesser

“If drugs didn't do more good than harm on the balance, Big [Pharma] wouldn't BE Big Pharma.”
-Mr. Snitch

Postive Commentary (Tigerhawk)

“I am on seven different compounds, and God, I would love to get off some of it, but I'm smart enough to know I'm alive today because I'm taking them. If Big Pharm was discouraged from producing drugs like that, what would people like me do? The answer is die early, and that answer satisfies some people of a certain mindset.”

“Regarding the marginal improvement issue-I use to take Prilosec for gastritis. I was limited on foods and consumed Tums like M&Ms. Along came Nexium a "marginal improvement" and I was given a new life free of antacids and back to enjoying wine, coffee, etc.  Life is wonderful and I am grateful to big pharma for that opportunity.”

“The reason Americans have a thing for the industry is discrimination pricing. Why should a Canadian be able to buy the same drug, made by the same manufacturer, for half the price that a US citizen has to pay? Why should a poor homeless person in San Francisco not be able to get free AIDs drugs when a poor person in Africa gets it for free? The problem with these facts are that they are not easy to understand, you can't put them on a bumper sticker. I can easily believe that politicians will use pricing as their election slogan and win. We won't like the result. Healthcare might become cheaper, but it won't be as good.”

Final Thoughts

So, do these comments mean the tide is changing for the pharmaceutical industry?  Is there a “silent majority” that loves what Big Pharma is doing, but has been less than willing to express their opinion?  Is the industry’s charm offensive working?  

Right now, it’s hard to tell.  However, as I’ve said before it would be wonderful if pharmaceutical companies decided to transparently join the online conversation about the issues.  Based on the commentary I’ve seen, I think some segments of the blogosphere would welcome a pharma blog.  Recently, some little birds have been telling me that some companies are seriously looking at how they can do this.  We’ll see which one is brave enough to take the plunge.  

For more on the blogosphere debate about Big Pharma, please see this post.  

1 Comments/Trackbacks

I know Andrew Sullivan blogs frequently about how drugs have saved his life (he is HIV positive). However, while it's true that we needn't demonize Big Pharma, and it's important to acknowledge the important contributions modern drugs have made, it's also every citizen's job to be suspicious of the process by which drugs get approved. Government is made of humans, who are fallible and often have less of an incentive to be honest than the rest of us - because reelection often depends upon perception of results, not actual results. We need a government to govern our government at this point. It's not leftist or paranoid (or any other negative adjective) to insist that more rigorous scientific standards and testing be applied to new drugs when the FDA is considering approval. The problem now is that the FDA lets the burden of proof fall on the pharmaceuticals in many cases. No drug company wants to kill customers, but they also want to make money, so there's an inherent conflict. It's just the nature of the beast, and regulatory oversight serves to correct that - but increasingly, it isn't. After at least 4 major drug scandals directly resulting from insufficient testing and study in the last two years alone, it's hardly a stretch to say both the FDA and Big Pharma have dropped the ball. Stay sharp, be healthy!

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