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Happy New Year! ...

Posted Oct 30 2008 3:21pm

Happy New Year!

As we head into 2008 (with one-twelfth of it already done), we here at PAL want to take an opportunity to look back and fondly recall our favority Prescription Access Litigation blog posts of 2007. 2007 was an exciting year for those of us committed to fighting drug company greed. We had some major successes and some set-backs, but you can always count on us to continue fighting to lower the cost of prescription drugs and challenge illegal drug industry schemes.

In May, PAL’s trusty mascot Pharmie answered your questions about how and why prescription drugs make the swtich to being available over the counter.

Drugs that you can buy without a prescription are called Over-the-Counter (OTC) drugs. There are hundreds of different drugs that are OTC – cough and cold medications, pain relievers (aspirin, ibuprofen, etc), heartburn drugs, and many others. Many of these drugs have been available for a very long time, and have long track records for safety. Others are newer, and often started out as prescription drugs.

In recent years, drug companies have often tried to preserve their profits and market share on a blockbuster prescription drug by switching it from prescription-only to OTC. Pharmie explained how drug companies benefit from this switch and whether it’s necessarily a good thing for consumers.

Click Here to read more about OTC drugs, and the entire Ask Pharmie series!

June was a great month for PAL and the consumers and health plans we fight for.First, we announced a major victory in our Average Wholesale Price (AWP) case. A federal judge ruled that Astra Zeneca, Bristol-Myers Squibb and Warrick acted “Unfairly and Deceptively” by inflating the “Average Wholesale Prices” of a number of their physician-administered drugs. The Court found that these three defendants caused the publication of false and inflated Average Wholesale Prices for seven drugs:
• Astra Zeneca: Zoladex
• Bristol Myers Squibb: Taxol, Vepesid, Cytoxan, Blenoxane and Rubex
• Warrick: albuterol sulfate

“Today’s decision rights a great wrong that was done by these three companies against some of our society’s sickest and most vulnerable patients,” said Alex Sugerman-Brozan, director of Prescription Access Litigation. “What could be more outrageous than taking advantage of cancer patients in the name of profits?”

The second major announcement we made in June was that a federal judge allowed our case against the maker of Zyprexa to move forward. In a 14 page ruling the Judge stated that the courts are “in the strongest position” to protect the public from fraudulent drug marketing. The case alleges that Zyprexa was fraudulently marketed for uses not approved by the FDA, and that important safety information was withheld. Click Here for the full story!

In July,we highlighted how the withdrawal of the Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) drug Zelnorm from the market illustrates the dangers of aggressive prescription drug marketing, and the absurdity of marketing questionable or overinclusive “syndromes.”Zelnorm was voluntarily withdrawn from the market by the manufacturer due to a study that showed patients on Zelnorm had an increased risk of heart problems.

These ads, and the overall promotional campaign of which they were a part, didn’t just market Zelnorm — they also marketed ‘Irritable Bowel Syndrome’ (IBS) as a condition, working to convince millions of viewers that they have ‘IBS,’ rather than more conventional occasional and symptomatic digestive problems. By the time Novartis voluntarily withdrew Zelnorm from the market in March 2007, millions of people had taken it.

On August 17 th we reported on an AP story that the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) spent $10.7 million in the first half of 2007 to lobby the federal government. PhRMA is headed by the former member of Congress, Billy Tauzin. While in office, Rep. Tauzin was one of the main proponents of the passage of the legislation that created Medicare Part D, which is widely regarded as an enormous giveaway to the pharmaceutical industry. Click here to read more about this report.

Also in August, we blogged about the dangerous and growing trend of prescription sleep medications to children and encouraged you to ask your doctor if Broccoli is right for you!

In September we really needed to vent about the pharmaceutical industries increasing love affair with preemption arguments as a way to avoid liability for deceptive advertising, patients’ injuries, and the like. Then we told you about two preemption cases to be heard by the Supreme Court.

This September Breast Cancer Action urged our readers to “ Think Before You Pink,” a campaign that encourages consumers to ask critical questions about the hundreds of pink ribbon products and promotions that are marketed every October in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month (BCA calls it Breast Cancer Industry Month). This year’s campaign focused on “pinkwashing” — the practice of companies that increase sales by putting pink ribbons on their products, even though these products contribute to the breast cancer epidemic.

Octoberbrought us a spooky surprise when we learned that according to The Government Accountibility Office seniors’ drug trials fail to involve enough seniors!

As the election season heated up this fall we decided to examine John Edward’s proposals to rein in the drug industry’s excesses. Does he go far enough?

And finally, an October surprise! Our beloved Red Sox (PAL is based in Boston ) won the World Series.

In November we featured an alert issued by Consumer Reports about the overhyping of drugs for “Restless Leg Syndrome.” The Restless Leg Syndrome Foundation, which happens to be significantly funded by GlaxoSmithKLine, which makes drugs for RLS, was not happy about the Consumer Reports alert.

Also in November we gave you one more reasonnot to buy Nexium, you know, the purple pill. At PAL, we’ve long contested that Nexium is just a dressed up version of Prilosec. You can put lipstick on a pig but…

As the holiday season came into swing this December we thought it was a good idea to highlight a report that reminded people to remember that certain foods can cause negative reactions when mixed with prescription drugs. Take a look at the list of the most common drugs and their accompanying “no no” foods.

Then we told you about Montell William’s outburst at a college student who was asking him about prescription drug prices. Williams is a paid spokeperson for PHrMA and the Partnership for Prescription Assistance. Click here to watch the video clip!

Finally, in December PAL joined a “friend of the court” brief supporting new patent rules that would curtail abusive behavior by patent applicants and improve patent quality. Click here for the details.

There you have it - The PAL Blog 2007 Year in Review!Since its start in May, our blog has been growing every day, but we’d still love your help. Please tell your friends and colleagues about this blog, and contact us if you’re interested in exchanging links to a related blog. Of course, we always encourage comments. Let us know in the comments here – what do you want us to report on in 2008? What did you particularly like – or dislike – on the PAL blog in 2007? What are your predictions for the industry in 2008?

Thank you so much for your readership, and have a wonderful (rest of) 2008!

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