Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Look Beyond the Headlines

Headlines - Articles
Research - Abstracts
Justification - Products
Pharma - Non-Profits
Advertising - Marketing

All too often nowadays, any item from the list above can be easily confused for another.  Take one recent headline from last week....
Approximately One-Third of MS Patients Experiencing Relapses Do Not Adequately Respond to Traditional Corticosteroid Therapy, According to New Data Presented at the 5th Joint Congress of the European and Americas Committees for Treatment and Research in Multiple Sclerosis.  Survey conducted by the North American Research Committee on Multiple Sclerosis (NARCOMS)-- 
Funding for the survey was provided by Questcor Pharmaceuticals and the abstract was presented at ECTRIMS by an employee of Questcor.  Questcor happens to have a product for which they are working hard to promote and increase prescriptions as an alternative treatment for MS relapses. 

I'd like to know who wrote the questions for the survey, because responses can be directly affected by how a question is asked.

In anticipation of their 3rd quarter financials, an article in late September discussed Questcor's "recent market value of about $1.7 billion."
"Questcor said Wednesday that it expected new paid prescriptions for Acthar in treating multiple sclerosis exacerbations to exceed 850 in the current quarter. Acthar costs $40,000 to $50,000 a prescription for that usage. Questcor said the prescription number was up 13% from the second quarter and up 160% from a year ago."
Questcor finally did release the results of their 3rd quarter yesterday.
"Questcor said the number of paid prescriptions for the multiple sclerosis treatment leaped 174 percent from the prior year, to 886 from 323. Use of the treatment for other conditions, including nephrotic syndrome and infantile spasms also rose.

`We believe Acthar has the potential to benefit many more MS, NS, IS and possibly lupus patients in the future," said President and CEO Don Bailey."
This MS relapse treatment costs as much as two rounds of Rituxan infusions.  It costs as much as a year's worth of MS disease-modifying therapy.  This usage alone will bring in more than a billion dollars to this little one-drug company for a drug which has been around since the 1950's.  Amazing.

But to be fair, I'd like to hear from an objective physician about the difference between this treatment and the more traditional round of Solumedrol infusions (which costs my insurance company approximately $600 in total).   There was to be a local presentation on Saturday, but it has been postponed.  Maybe not enough people were interested.  If it is rescheduled, I'll let you know so that we can prepare questions for the Q&A session.


Unless you think that this headline is an unusual example, believe me when I say that it is not.  Other recent headlines have focused on a survey conducted by the NMSS this summer on the impact walking difficulties have in those living with MS.  It is being used by Acorda Therapeutics to boost articles related to their main product known as the "MS walking drug."

Smart business approach.  Sure.
Easy to miss the connection between the two - survey and product promotion - absolutely.
Should patients look beyond the headlines, dig deeper into the story, to find those connections?  You betcha.

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