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PLOS BLOGS Speaking of Medicine and Health

Another Ghostly Apparition

The Halloween guest list continues to grow.

As reported in the New York Times and highlighted by Jim Edwards in BNET Pharma,  the FY 2004 marketing plan for Forest Labs’ antidepressant Lexapro included $100,000 for “Bylined Articles”:

Bylined articles will allow us to fold Lexapro messages into articles on depression, anxiety, and co-morbidity developed by (or ghostwritten for) thought leaders.  We will identify a Lexapro thoughtleader to place 1-3 bylined articles in trade journals, consumer publications and on the Internet.  Estimated costs include article development, revisions and honoraria for the authors. Examples of topics include co-morbidity of depression and anxiety and selectivity.

The plan, made public by the US Senate’s  Special Committee on Aging, appeared to recognize that the editorial process might at times  interfere with the marketing message, and accordingly estimated expenses of $200,000 for “Paid Media Outreach”:

In addition to the traditional editorial media outreach, there are also opportunities in which we can increase control over the final product by paying for the placement.  These opportunities, which will supplement our core activities, may include Lexapro message placement in radio programs (e.g., American Health Radio) or other “advertorial” venues.  Expenses may include spokesperson honoraria, production costs, logistics, and script writing.

Earlier this year, Lexapro was featured in news stories about a lawsuit by federal prosecutors around promotion of the drug for  prescription to children (allegedly involving payments to physicians), and also about the flap that ensued after a researcher pointed out that the author of a Lexapro clinical trial published in JAMA had failed to disclose that he had a financial relationsip with Forest Labs.

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