Dear Friends and Colleagues,
Freelance writer and
cartoonist Martha Rosenberg has worked diligently to reveal the conflict of
interest in many of the pharma/medical situations.
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Grassley Investigates Lilly/WebMD link Reported by Washington
By Martha Rosenberg (about the
author) Page 1 of 2 page(s)
For OpEdNews: Martha Rosenberg – Writer
not too hard to find evidence of links between WebMD and drug giant Eli
A 2002 article on the gigantic medical site about pain and
depression says “Lilly is a WebMD Partner,” and an advertising award in 2004
went to the FCB “client” Eli Lilly & Co./WebMD–not clients.
and skyscraper ads for Lilly‘s blockbuster antidepressant Cymbalta on WebMD‘s
home page never seemed to yield to other advertisers in 2009–and the Washington
Post reported Lilly and WebMD to be partners in 2000.
Now Sen. Charles
Grassley (R-Iowa), ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, is
investigating financial ties between Lilly and WebMD Health Corp because of a
WebMD TV ad exhorting people to undergo a Lilly depression screening.
can joke about the need to tell people they are depressed–do people need to be
told they have a headache?–but pharma’s screening ruse to recruit new
patient pools for the volatile drugs among teens, adolescents and new mothers is
3,500 news articles about antidepressant linked violence
appear on the web site, SSRIstories.com, including 700 murders, 200
murder-suicides, 51 school shooting incidents and 54 postpartum depression cases
In addition to WebMD, WebMD Health Corp. includes the web
sites Medscape, MedicineNet, eMedicine, eMedicine Health, RxList, theHeart.org,
and drugs.com. Original partners and investors says the Washington Post included
“Microsoft, DuPont, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. (and his Fox TV networks),
Silicon Graphics and Netscape founder Jim Clark, drug maker Eli Lilly, and EDS,
the computer services company founded by H. Ross Perot.”
Lilly is not the
only pharma company receiving unmarked product placement on WebMD.
summer, a video featured a woman patient confessing she was fearful of life
while a voice over said she needed treatment for “general anxiety disorder” and
the camera showed bottles of Forest Pharmaceuticals’ antidepressant
Lexapro moving down the manufacturer’s assembly line. Get it? No disclaimer
on the video or “sponsored content” appeared.
Another unsponsored WebMD
video last summer urged people on antidepressants to remain on their therapy
“despite side effects” and a third suggested women concerned about cancer, heart
attack and stroke risks of postmenopausal hormone therapy should continue their
treatment at lowered doses. Hang in there, valued customers.
A search for
Wyeth (now Pfizer) antidepressant Effexor a few months ago on WebMD elicited a
JAMA study finding Effexor superior to other antidepressants by a Wyeth funded
second author, Graham Emslie, MD. Effexor was the drug Andrea Yates took when
she drowned her five children in 2001, a case found on
Questions about conflict of interest have surfaced at
WebMD‘s Medscape too which administers many of the lucrative drug company
sponsored continuing medical education [CME] courses in the US which doctors
must complete to keep their state licenses.
Last year psychiatrist Daniel
Carlat, MD–who recounts his adventures as a Wyeth paid Effexor promoter in the
New York Times magazine–writes that he received, as a member of Medscape, an
envelope with “a brochure from Forest Laboratories advertising Lexapro, and
nothing else. It was creepy, like Invasion of the Body Snatchers.”
Lilly is known for launching the SSRI antidepressant revolution with Prozac,
Cymbalta does much of the heavy lifting now with worldwide sales of $3.075
billion in 2009.
Many remember Cymbalta as the drug 19-year-old healthy
clinical volunteer Traci Johnson killed herself on, during trials on the Lilly
campus in 2004–soon after FDA investigations into suicide/antidepressant
Traci had no depression history said Rev. Joel Barnaby, a
spokesman for the Johnson family, who called Lilly‘s decision to proceed with
Cymbalta’s launch as scheduled “offensive” posturing.
suicides occurred during Cymbalta clinical trials, said the FDA and twice the
rate of suicide attempts were seen in women prescribed the drug for stress
urinary incontinence–also patients with no depression to blame.
remember Cymbalta as the drug Carol Anne Gotbaum, daughter-in-law of New York
City Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum, was taking during her macabre death in
police custody at the Phoenix’s Sky Harbor airport in 2007.
But now Lilly
and WebMD are pushing Cymbalta for pain since it was approved for
fibromyalgia in 2008. “Across cultures, patients who complain of pain tend to be
depressed,” says the 2002 article which calls WebMD and Lilly partners, a
finding from a “huge international study by Prozac manufacturer Eli Lilly and
“Could your muscle aches be related to depression?” hawks WebMD
text under the heading, “Recognizing the Symptoms of Depression.” Next to it is
a picture of a depressed women with arrows pointing to the pain in her head and
neck, chest and stomach, arms and hands, legs and feet and of course
“Print out this symptom diary, and fill it out. Then take it to
your doctor to discuss what may be causing your symptoms.”
we’re told, is “selected and controlled by WebMD‘s editorial staff” but “funded
by Lilly USA.”
Martha Rosenberg is
columnist and cartoonist based in Chicago I