Rocker Gregg Allman “works with” Merck on hepatitis C pitch

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Physician-blogger Elaine Schattner writes that Gregg of the Allman Brothers has hepatitis C and has “teamed with” or is “working with” Merck to promote hep C awareness.

She blogs:

“The ethics of this are com­pli­cated: On the one hand, it might be a good thing for a music icon to raise public awareness about hepatitis C, so that more people at risk might get tested and then treated early before they develop severe liver disease and cancer, and would feel better. Gregg Allman is in a position to spread that message effec­tively: “If I have hep C, you might have hep C. Let me tell you about it…” (somewhat in the style of Magic Johnson, on HIV).

On the other hand, the notion of a post-transplant musician serving as the public’s primary source for infor­mation on hepatitis C seems pre­pos­terous, espe­cially if he’s tied in with a phar­ma­ceu­tical company with a stake in the matter. The sit­u­ation is rem­i­niscent of Sally Fields starring in com­mer­cials for Boniva, an osteo­porosis drug.

You might ask yourself — and it’s not a trivial exercise — who can best, and objec­tively, inform the public about viral liver infec­tions and the potential ben­efits of treatment: doctors? (we harbor biases; many have industry ties); patient peers? (Allman is a heightened example, but he’s hardly objective about this, either)”

Oh, and were you aware that Merck is in a heated battle with competition in the multibillion dollar hepatitis C drug market?

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Bradley Flansbaum

June 29, 2011 at 6:27 pm

Okay, okay, I hear ya…
But you have listened to Live At The Fillmore, yes?
C’mon, I mean give the guy a break. :)
Alright, now lets get back to some serious health policy.

Mary Gawlas, RN

July 5, 2011 at 2:29 pm

Since Sally Fields flew in with her “God’s Geese” habit straight into America’s heart, I have had a soft spot for her cutesy looks and attitude, no matter what part she played later in life, and would take anything she had to say as pretty benign. So when I found out that the side effects of Boniva were more detrimental than the condition it supposedly treated, I have been devastated to know that MY Sally Fields was even remotely connected with it (knowing full well she is probably robustly compensated.) So I am on your side of this argument. Thanks Pharma, although I will use your drug reps cutesy incentive pens and clocks, I will do my homework, get lots of opinions not the least of which is my physician’s and my nursing pals’ and make up my own mind.

Alan Shackelford

November 18, 2011 at 7:50 am

I am an Allman fan, and always will be. But that has little to do with my situation. I have Hep-C and would have delayed my official diagnosis were it not for Gregg mentioning it in an ad of some kind. I had the classic symptoms of liver ailments, so I asked for a test. This weekend I begin my meds, which are quite expensive and are going to make me miserable. But I may walk out of this in pretty good shape.
I don’t think we should beat Gregg up too much about this. Compensated or not, he has the ability to do a lot of good for folks like me that just need to be reminded to get up and do something.