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PR Diarrhea

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If there’s any doubt about the impact of public relations efforts on news coverage of health products, look at what the PR company Fleishman-Hillard brags about on its website. They describe a campaign for a diarrhea vaccine. From their website:

Don’t Leave Home Without It

Fleishman-Hillard launches Dukoral. A three-pronged media relations campaign resulted in 19 million impressions (triple the project goal), physician acceptance and consumer demand for Dukoral.

Dukoral, the first and only oral vaccine for protection against most common causes of Traveller’s Diarrhea. For the project spokespeople were identified in key Canadian Markets (Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal-bilingual) willing to speak to the media about Dukoral. The spokespeople represented Dukoral to travel, healthcare and consumer media. All media coverage has had a direct impact on the target audiences. Media coverage incorporated key messages about Travellers’ Diarrhea and Dukoral’s role in the prevention of this potentially serious illness. Attributed to the extensive media coverage physician have reported to sales team that many patients have asked for Dukoral bringing in articles consumers themselves have read.

Journalists love toilet jokes in their stories. Melody Petersen, in her book, Our Daily Meds: How the Pharmaceutical Companies Transformed Themselves into Slick Marketing Machines and Hooked the Nation on Prescription Drugs, wrote that too many journalists too easily fall into drug company plans to create a market for a drug, such as, in one case, a drug for “overactive bladders.” “Dozens of journalists at newspapers and television stations across the country wrote stories about the disorder said to be destroying the lives of millions of Americans,” she wrote. “Editors and television news directors loved these reports. Silly stories of people running to the toilet brightened the day’s news.”

Dukoral is not yet approved by the FDA.

Thanks for the tip to Alan Cassels, who also points out questions about the vaccine’s effectiveness and its cost.

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