The Pulse

The Pulse, hiatus

As of 12/18, The Pulse has been placed on hiatus. I will be shifting healthcare news to The Cycle for the time being.

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New online health sites provide access to the FDA, health experts

It seems that experts and government agencies are finally getting into the online consumer health space.

This week, the FDA announced a collaboration with WebMD to provide agency-generated information to the health site as a means to promote public health.

Lluminari, a health media company that counts WPP as an investor, announced the creation of an expert-guided social network called Be Well and UnitedHealth Group launched a free consumer health and wellness Web site called My Optum Health.

A trend, perhaps?

For the FDA, which has struggled with communications issues in recent years, the collaboration with WebMD may be a jumping off point for the agency to generate interest from other sites, a spokesperson told PRWeek. The agency is contributing food, medicine, cosmetic, and medical device safety information to Protect Your Health at WebMD, a particularly attractive candidate for collaboration because it has 50 million unique visitors each month.

With Be Well, the aim is to provide clear information that can help consumers make well-information choices about their healthcare, says Cheryl Heiks, director of communications for Lluminari. Because the company was founded by a number of well-known health experts like Drs. Susan Love and Nancy Snyderman, it can provide information from sources that consumers already trust.

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J&J acquires cosmetic device maker; FDA looks at its Food Protection Plan; media hyped up benefit of statins; and more

For the week of December 1:

Johnson & Johnson continues its expansion into the consumer health market with the acquisition of Mentor, a medical products company that sells silicone-filled breast implants.

The acquisition will the healthcare company build up its aesthetic and reconstructive medicine unit yet USA Today reports that consumers are cutting back on cosmetic procedures as the economic situation worsens, especially for big ticket items like face lifts.


The FDA its year-long Food Protection Plan, in which the agency opened handful of global offices, approved the use of irradiation, and added 130 new employees.

A recent study funded by AstraZeneca that shares the health benefits of statins could be little more than media hype, says the Center for Media and Democracy.

Roche’s chance to acquire Genentech may be becoming less of a possibility as the drugmaker struggles to find the right funding options.

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Pharma transparency debate hits the media; J&J to collaborate with UCSD; biotech industry prepares for changes; and more

For the week of November 24:

The transparency debate for pharmaceutical companies has shifted to the media outlets who cover them closely.

Dr. Frederick Goodwin, a psychiatrist who hosted a program called “The Infinite Mind” on NPR, at least $1.3 million in income from drugmakers, reports The New York Times. NPR, which told the newspaper it was unaware of the financial conflicts of interest, plans to stop the program.

The Times also on a paper published in a British medical journal that says health reporters who accept industry-sponsored awards and rely on corporate PR offices for information can face the same ethical dilemmas.

The paper mentioned PR firms that work with “freelance writers (whose ranks are growing as newspapers throw staffers overboard) to compose stories for trade mags.”


Johnson & Johnson announces a collaboration with the University of California, San Diego, signifying a larger trend of drugmakers partnering with universities to expand their pipelines.

Biotechs are struggling because of their lack of cash reserves, with many industry start-ups pausing research and considering selling themselves to larger companies to prevent bankruptcy.

The Kaiser Family Foundation is its own health news service, to be used for its own Web site and for collaborations with mainstream media outlets.

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Unions launch campaign against CVS; FDA opens offices in China; South Korea promotes medical tourism; and more

For the week of November 17:

Labor unions a campaign accusing CVS of violating patient policy, as well as pushing physicians to prescribe Januvia, Merck’s diabetes drug that is considered more expensive than other diabetes treatment.

A spokesperson for the drug store chain The Associated Press that the coalition of unions, called Change to Win, had launched “several aggressive misinformation campaigns” in the past.

CVS’  use of patient data creates concerns about patient privacy, says the organization, while the company says it only uses private health information as permitted by law.


The FDA to open three offices in China this week, the first outside of the US.

Medical tourists to Health Care Town in South Korea as the number of patients facing high healthcare costs in the US travel to India, Thailand, and Singapore for treatment.

HHS Secretary released the organization’s second report about personalized medicine.

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Investigation into FDA’s PR contract continues

The investigation into the FDA’s no-bid contract with a PR agency continues.

In September, the FDA halted work with Alaska Newspapers Inc. and its subcontractor Qorvis Communications, while waiting for the findings of internal and independent reviews about whether or not the agency followed government policy when awarding the $300,000 contract.

Two Republican senators, Mike Enzi and Tom Coburn, are now asking for information about the bid process as well as requesting an investigation from the Department of Health and Human Services.

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It seems that Google can a regional flu outbreak nearly two weeks before the Centers for Disease Control reports them.

The CDC gathers data at a slower pace because it relies on information provided by healthcare providers, labs, and other sources, The New York Times. , on the other hand, tracks and compiles search terms - think flu symptoms - as they come in.

Mark Senak at the Eye on FDA blog : “It is an incredible public service.  It is also a mighty flex of research muscle, and should be lighting up the minds of those who do marketing for pharmaceutical companies.”

While the service is only available for the flu now, there is a possibility Google will expand into other illnesses.


Study says cholestrol drug could prevent heart complications; California schools struggle with nutrition guidelines; OTC cold and flu brands step up marketing; and more

For the week of November 10:

A major study involving 18,000 people across the world that Crestor, a cholesterol drug, lowers the risk of heart attacks, strokes, and death and the drug could prevent 250,000 heart complications among people with normal cholesterol who use Crestor in the US.

The findings, The Wall Street Journal, could “broaden the market for statins, the world’s best-selling class of medicines.” The study was by AstraZeneca, maker of Crestor.


California public schools with nutrition reform, including the demise of traditional bake sales.

The marketing tactics for this season’s OTC cold and flu brands on innovation, as sales continue to decline.

The InVivo Blog eyes possible candidates for HHS secretary, FDA commissioner, and CMS administrator under the Obama Administration.

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Pharma, biotech await industry changes

Now that Barack Obama has been president, the pharmaceutical and biotech industries are preparing for changes ahead.

What PR professionals can expect in the coming months is a continued focus on public health, as companies strive to become healthcare responsible in a traditionally sales-focused culture, says Peter Pitts, SVP of global health affairs at MS&L and Drug Wonks blogger.

With either candidate, it seems the biggest and most immediate concern reported on by the news media is the possibility of DTC restrictions, especially with Congress to act on the public’s healthcare concerns.

Fierce Pharma notes: “While it looks like big pharma and the advertising and PR agencies that get the pharma word out are prepping for tighter regulation over direct-to-consumer advertising following Obama’s January move into the White House, both will do so with little surprise.”

Much was made during the election process about the fact that pharma the Democrats 49% of contributions for this election, up 15% from previous elections that have shown a more Republican leaning.

The question, says Pitts, becomes what do pharmaceutical companies expect from their investment. The answer? Access, he says. They have to decide what story they want to tell.

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BusinessWeek covers the pharma changing of the guard; the stem cell debate continues at the state level; a study links sexual content on TV to teen pregnancy; and more

For the week of November 3:

Now is the time for pharmaceutical companies to acquire the biotech firms that can pump up their pipelines for the next few years, says GlaxoSmithKline’s CEO Andrew Witty.

BusinessWeek took an extensive look at the new CEOs in pharma, part of a “massive changing of the guard” that “comes at a time of both huge risks and irresistible opportunities.”

The magazine also discusses pharma’s image issues with four CEOs - Pfizer’s Jeffrey Kindler, Roche’s Severin Schwan, Bristol-Myers Squibb’s James Cornelius, and Eli Lilly’s John Lechleiter.


The stem cell debate as Michigan prepares for Proposition 2, a proposal that would void the state’s ban on the destruction of human embryos for medical research.

A new study says that teen TV consumption links sexual content on TV to teenage pregnancy.

Wyeth’s preemption appeal is being called the “business case of the century,” says Pharmalot, and is scheduled to close November 3.

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