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Wyeth ready to listen

Wyeth is set to launch a telephone support programme this week for patients taking its antidepressant drug, Effexor, in the US, a move which has been hailed by many as a bold attempt to regain the trust of the public

Wyeth is set to launch a telephone support programme this week for patients taking its antidepressant drug, Effexor, in the US, a move which has been hailed by many as a bold attempt to regain the trust of the public.

The US drug manufacturer will provide a service in which nurses call Effexor patients to invite them to join the scheme, which attempts to help patients through the challenges of depression. The Dialogues: Time to Talk programme will offer patients an opportunity to talk through the problems associated with depression and also help with medicine compliance. It will include resources for tracking progress in combating depression and also educational programmes for improved psychological wellbeing.

Wyeth's move is one of the industry's most significant efforts to date at improving its reputation with customers and clinicians. The reasons for the scheme are varied. Dr Joseph Camardo, Wyeth's medical affairs chief, told the Financial Times: ìWe know that one of the issues facing doctors is that they don't always have the time for patient support particularly with depression.î

That is a major factor behind Wyeth's reasoning - an attempt to improve drug efficacy by preventing patients from coming off their treatment through the combination of `therapy plus medicine'. Wyeth claims that the new outlook is based on research published in the August 2004 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), which states that enhanced patient support can optimise antidepressant therapy outcomes.

The JAMA article also notes that their findings 'suggest a new public health model of psychotherapy for depression including active outreach and rigorous efforts to improve access to and motivation for treatment'. Such claims have been commonplace for the past 20 years of depression research, but this is one of the first major moves by a large pharmaceutical company in attempting to provide both drug therapy and patient outreach, regardless of how limited.

Nurses who have been trained by Wyeth on the side effects and use of Effexor will operate the support line. The nurses will, however, be supplied by a third party in accordance with industry regulations.

At the time of publication, Wyeth had been unavailable to comment on specifics, such as how in-depth the service will be and which company will supply the nurses.

2nd September 2008

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