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Novartis and Hooters

Is it a kickback to get doctors to prescribe certain drugs?

Or is it truly an educational meeting for doctors – that happens to be held at places like Hooters across the country?

Read the Wall Street Journal’s story from last week, “U.S. Accuses Novartis of Kickbacks.” It’s about a civil fraud lawsuit “in which prosecutors alleged the company’s U.S. unit paid kickbacks and provided lavish dinners for doctors to encourage them to prescribe certain brand-name drugs to treat hypertension and other maladies.”  The story reported: “Many programs took place with fewer than three health-care professionals in attendance, and sometimes only with members of the speaker’s own medical practice, according to the complaint.”

John Mack had some fun with it on his Pharma Marketing blog.


Gallery of Live-Tweeted Surgeries

The Live Science site has been following the trend of live-streaming and live-tweeting of surgeries. Hermann Hospital in Houston has live-tweeted heart surgery, brain surgery and a c-section delivery – leading to this slide show series called, “Social Surgery: A Gallery of Live-Tweeted Operations.” From the Live Science site:

“Something going wrong is a primary concern for doctors, who, by all ethical standards, must put their patients first. The Society of Thoracic Surgeons goes so far as to frown upon live broadcasts of surgery even for the benefit of other physicians, unless the educational value is high. Twitter broadcasting is strongly condemned by the group.

“Surgeons should not participate in live surgery broadcasts to the public or lay audiences using any medium, including television and the Internet,” according to the society’s guidelines.

Some patients question the practice, too. Elaine Schattner, a journalist and physician who has undergone multiple major surgeries herself, questions putting hospital resources into live-tweeting.

“The way I see it, most hospitals are short-staffed, so to have a person who is the designated tweeter paid for by the hospital is absurd,” Schattner told LiveScience.

Schattner also expressed concern about potential distractions to the surgeon and whether social media surgeries serve a purpose beyond public relations and marketing for a practice or hospital. There’s no extra benefit to live surgery compared with watching prerecorded videos on YouTube or elsewhere, she said.”


Impact of Marketing and PR on the News Media

And let’s not lose sight of the threat of marketing’s impact on journalism.  The Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism 2013 annual report on “The State of the News Media” reports:

“…a news industry that is more undermanned and unprepared to uncover stories, dig deep into emerging ones or to question information put into its hands. And findings from our new public opinion survey released in this report reveal that the public is taking notice. Nearly one-third of the respondents (31%) have deserted a news outlet because it no longer provides the news and information they had grown accustomed to.

And recently, journalist David Cay Johnston in writing about a pitch from one corporate marketer that included a “vacation reward” for running his stories, remarked, “Journalists get lots of pitches like this these days, which is partly a reflection of how the number of journalists has shriveled while the number of publicists has grown.”  Indeed, an analysis of Census Bureau data by Robert McChesney and John Nichols found the ratio of public relations workers to journalists grew from 1.2 to 1 in 1980 to 3.6 to 1 in 2008—and the gap has likely only widened since.”

You can read some of our past blog posts about medical marketing practices.   Or other blog posts on some health care public relations practices.


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Comments (2)

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Walter Lipman

May 6, 2013 at 10:23 am

This may very well be the first publication that contained “Hooters” and “lavish dinners for doctors ” in the same article!