Friday, June 08, 2007

Astroturf: Welcome to the Machine

I welcomed y’all to the PR Machine yesterday, where I discussed the Drug Wonks blog and the general topic of how pro-industry speech is magnified while dissenting voices are generally muffled.

I’m not the only blogger who has noticed this trend. Philip Dawdy at Furious Seasons noted recently that Lilly, maker of Doggie Prozac (aka Reconcile), is now supporting a patient support group (Support Partners) that touts the benefits of dog ownership for people with depression. Wonderful. I wonder if this new support group will ever discuss Reconcile? Nah, too obvious, you think? We’ll see.

On the page that discusses treatment options for depression, it is stated…

Some of your questions may include the different medications used to treat depression. If you want to learn more about a medication for the treatment of depression from Eli Lilly and Company, click here

As you probably guessed, it links to the lovely Depression Hurts website. The page also states:

Therapy typically means that you spend about an hour a week talking with a mental health professional. Treatment can continue for several weeks or up to one to two years. Every person's situation is different.

What does it say about antidepressants, besides linking to Cymbalta?

Taking medication to treat depression doesn't change your personality; you'll simply start to feel better. You may begin to feel improvement in your symptoms in the first couple of weeks of taking an antidepressant. Typically, within four to six weeks, you should notice a significant improvement.

So with medication, “you’ll simply start to feel better,” usually within four to six weeks, whereas with psychotherapy, you might spend several weeks or up to two years and who knows if you’ll feel better. Who cares that the evidence on treating depression does not support Lilly’s marketing?

Oh well. At least the website for Support Partners is obviously sponsored by Lilly, with the Lilly logo on the bottom of the page.

Sneaky Sponsorship: Some groups are not nearly as blatantly sponsored as Support Partners. That is why I am so pleased that Seroxat Secrets has been keeping an eye on patient support groups that, by sheer coincidence, happen to recite marketing talking points from industry. The posts on the Diabetes Monitoring Forum (1, 2) are well worth a read.

A patient support group known as Depression Alliance has also been dissected at Seroxat Secrets. Rather than copy his words, I’ll just refer interested readers to the posts on the link between the patient advocacy group Depression Alliance and public relations firms that helped with the UK launch of Cymbalta (1, 2).

Other astroturfing posts include:

Once again, Welcome to the Machine


Anonymous said...

I literally groan every time I see that Depression Hurts commercial. It makes it look like Cymbalta is the answer to whatever ails you, which is I am sure what they want viewers to think.

I rarely refer patients for medication and I work with people fairly long term. In the 35 years I have been doing this work, the vast majority of my patients have improved and become equipped to manage their lives very well. These days I feel quite out of step because I can't promise everything will be better in a few weeks or a few months. I appreciate your work a lot. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Even "online support groups" such at this one (which allows no dissenting views about medications.. I know from personal experience) are pushing this.

*sorry about the long link; but I can't do the html thing here*

herb said...

Dear Dr. Cheryl Fuller,

While I am of the agreement that the least invasive therapeutic approach should be undertaken first, I also seem to acknowledge from your writings and that of the CL Psych that your patient populations appear not to be what I consider the worst of the worst.

It also seems obvious to me that I’ve associated and worked with those patients that you have not and who never maintained long-term remission let alone beneficial response from either talk and/or medication therapies etc.

I would just like to make this fact clear to the readership that there is a patient population suffering MDD estimated to number about 4 to 5 million who are not responding to these conventional therapies.