Protecting Free Speech: Your Pharma Ad Man

Not much time to go into details—the Coalition for Healthcare Communication deserves a discussion of its own, devoted as it is to “promote the free exchange of scientific and medical communications. In particular, it is essential that healthcare professionals, and the general public, receive truthful, accurate information regarding pharmaceuticals, medical products, and patient care”—but I wanted to quick post (after the jump) this evidence, forwarded from an ad industry insider, of the amazing work for democracy being undertaken by the pharmaceutical companies on our behalf*:

From time to time I like to keep you informed about issues impacting our industry and programs and initiatives designed to protect and advance our business interests. You may have heard about the recent decision by Pfizer to eliminate support of commercially based CME programs. I have fielded a number of questions from many of you as to how this might impact our business interests and going-forward action. Additionally, I have also been asked what the industry’s response has been to this and other recent developments that may threaten our livelihood.

Reproduced below is communication that was sent to members of the Medical Advertising Agency Committee of the American Association of Advertising Agencies, of which I am proud to be the chairperson-elect. That organization, as well as our own, supports the Coalition for Healthcare Communications, whose mission it is to advance the work done by companies like ours and protect the rights to free speech that firms like ours does for clients.

You will note the reference to the newly revised guidelines from the trade organization, PhRMA, which stands for the Pharmaceutical Research & Manufacturers of America. PhRMA is comprised of blue-chip pharmaceutical companies, many of which are our clients. Although these new guidelines do not materially affect our work, they are evidence of increasing scrutiny by legislators and industry watchdog groups who take offense at certain advertising and marketing approaches fielded by our clients. Of course, we comply with these voluntary guidelines, as well.

Today I met with the new NextGen Leadership Development class and, during our open Q&A session, the subject of industry leadership and sweeping healthcare reform became a topic of conversation. Please know that our industry will continue to feel the pressure from multiple constituencies – government, employers, patients, etc. – to increase access to affordable medicines from multiple constituencies. The area that seems to be most open to attack is the practice of pharmaceutical sales and marketing, which of course is directly aimed at firms like ours. We will continue to fight as an industry to encourage open dialogue and constructive solutions aimed at preserving free speech, open information architecture and access, and putting the best medicine in the hands of the right patients through their physicians. After all, we know that Life’s Too Short® for anything less**.

Thank you for your continued support of our industry. You are critical to helping preserve a healthcare system that is arguably the finest in the world.


—–Original Message—–
From: Tom Finneran []
Sent: Thursday, July 10, 2008 10:35 AM
Subject: Med Ed News for MACC/AAAA Members from the Coalition for Healthcare Communications

MAAC Members:

Today the Coalition for Healthcare Communications published a statement strongly urging pharma companies to continue their direct financial support of our education companies rather than follow the Pfizer decision announced last week.

The statement is posted at the top of the Coalition homepage:

Thanks to the help of many of your CME agency heads, the statement is respectful but states clearly why the industry should continue to support the innovative programs of our companies, and why we think the Pfizer approach may be counterproductive. From what we hear, other pharma companies disagree with the Pfizer decision, and this position paper is designed to support them in their internal discussion.

Know, however, that Pfizer continues to support use of our non-accredited companies as joint sponsors of education programs, significantly limiting the immediate financial hit to our business.

Regardless, the Coalition believes that the Pfizer decision is inappropriate and we need to do all we can to avoid it spreading.

Also, as you may have seen, PhRMA today announced new guidelines on company relationships with prescribers. We hope PhRMA companies are correct that the renewed guides will help stem the intense public criticism focused on the business, and we’re working with the press today supporting PhRMA. Please the new PhRMA guides when you have a chance, but from our reading the new guides will not substantially limit our activities. The announcement is on the PhRMA site in the press release section:

You will see that the revised guides focus more on lavish meals and pens than on our staple services. In CME, for example, the guides stress adherence with current FDA, HHS-IG, and ACCME principles, and do not adopt Pfizer’s unfortunate decision from last week nor the reforms suggested recently by the Macy Foundation or AAMC. Nor does it give ACCME a blank check to adopt new sweeping proposals to eliminate commercial support or commercial CME companies.

Thanks for your continued strong support. . . .


John Kamp, Exec Director
Coalition for Healthcare Communication
Of Counsel, Wiley Rein LLP
(M) 703 801 6473

* Italics=irony.
** I don’t know what this means.

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