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Bitter pill awards for pharma firms

Health advocacy group highlights 'questionable' prescription drug marketing practices

Five pharma firms in the US have been singled out for 'over-zealous and questionable marketing practices' by health and consumer advocacy group, the Prescription Access Litigation Project (PAL).

PAL gave 'bitter pill' awards to Sepracor for sleeping disorder drug, Lunesta, sanofi-aventis for sleeping pill, Ambien, Eli Lilly for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder drug, Strattera, and AstraZeneca for cholesterol-lowering drug, Crestor.

The awards were created in 2005 to highlight the potential problems of excessive prescription drug marketing, particularly direct-to-consumer advertising, the group said.

ìA lot of money is riding on drug companies convincing consumers that they have insomnia, acid reflux, high cholesterol, allergies, depression, toenail fungus and erectile dysfunction, and that they need to have expensive brand-name drugs to treat them,î said PAL director, Alex Sugarman-Brozan.

PAL also gave an award to US pharmaceutical trade organisation, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), for not enforcing the direct-to-consumer advertising guidelines it issued last year.

In a statement, PhRMA responded that the guidelines ìare beginning to work, and we believe they should be given additional time to function more robustlyî.

2nd September 2008

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