Product News and Recalls

Pharmaceutical company tries to hide lobbying

An item on the blog Pharmalot examines an e-mail suggesting that drugmaker Bristol-Myers Squibb plans to get physicians to lobby state Medicaid programs on the company’s behalf.

According to Pharmalot, the e-mail was sent to the district business manager team with the goal of getting Medicaid programs in Pennsylvania, Delaware and Maryland to place the Onglyza diabetes drug on the state formularies.

Although the blog doesn’t say that the company was doing anything illegal, it does point out that the region business director evidently wanted to keep the effort secret. She informed the e-mail recipients that the company did not want to “create the risk/appearance” of lobbying. She advised them to conceal it through tactics such as making sure the number of letters doctors sent to state programs would be proportionate to the size of the state.

She also informed her colleagues that the company sought legal counsel before taking that step. “Why? Giving the appearance of an old-fashioned lobbying effort may not look too good,” the blog states.

Recently, the FDA warned that diabetes drugs like Onglyza may cause pancreatitis, but there have been no clinical studies. A similar diabetes drug (Janumet) has contained a warning about pancreatitis and pancreatic cancer since 2009, which raises the question why newer drugs have not studied these conditions more rigorously.

See the blog item here: http://www.pharmalot.com/2012/04/when-is-lobbying-not-lobbying-ask-bristol-myers/