Sunday, July 01, 2007

Seroquel for Everything: Off-Label Marketing?

Peter Rost has a trio of documents on his site regarding potential off-label marketing of Seroquel. As you may recall, I promised to track the Seroquel lawsuit saga that I am fairly certain will continue to unfold. Why the lawsuits? Partially due to allegations of off-label marketing. The latest chapter, from Rost's site, is that AZ appears to have sent out a letter to sales representatives asking them to inform doctors about "medical education" events. As you probably know by now, "medical education" is quite often drug company-speak for "advertising." (1, 2, 3 ).

These "medical education" events were available via VHS, DVD, or webcast for doctors to view at their convenience. One event discussed Seroquel use in the young and the elderly, while another focused on Seroquel for bipolar depression prior to Seroquel receiving FDA approval for such an indication. Is that naughty? Yes. Is it illegal off-label marketing? I'm no lawyer, but I bet not.

Why? Well, the medical education was not provided by AZ. No, it was provided through a third party (i3 CME ), which was "supported" by AZ. i3 CME then found some key opinion leaders to provide "education" to their physician peers. The marketing message is laundered through i3 CME so that AZ can say, "We weren't marketing anything off-label -- we're not responsible for what i3 CME did with the program -- i3 CME is independent!"

Yeah, right. Should i3 CME wish to stay in business, they're going to make sure to get pro-AZ speakers and design a program that paints Seroquel in a good light. My favorite part is this snippet from the letter from the AZ CME director to sales reps.
AstraZeneca supported an independent educational activity on October 8, 2006 in the areas of "psychosis and dementia."
So if AZ supported an "independent" educational activity, doesn't that make the activity, um, not independent? Give me a break. For more on the Seroquel for everything saga, please read prior posts here and here.

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