Pfizer has recently upped the stakes in its campaign to depict fibromyalgia as a “real” medical condition.

In an non-branded “disease awareness” TV ad that I saw last night, this point was hammered home by images of a woman showing black and blue bruises over her body. She says something like “Maybe if people saw me this way, they will believe that fibromyalgia is a real medical condition.”

What I saw were disturbing images reminiscent of battered woman syndrome. The whole thing smacked of desperation on Pfizer’s part to sell more drugs and represents DTC advertising sinking to a new low in exploiting women’s fears!

I was not able to capture an image of the woman from my TV, so I am using the image above left that I found at the Medical Advocates/Battered Women web site. It accurately conveys the message that Pfizer put on the screen. (If you can get an actual screen shot of the ad, please send it to me at

The ad urges viewers to visit the FibroCenter Web site where they can find information about a treatment option; ie, Lyrica, Pfizer’s drug approved for the treatment of fibromyalgia.

Perhaps Pfizer is getting desperate to sell more Lyrica in the face of criticisms that fibromyalgia is not a real medical condition. The cartoon on the right from the Dry Bones Blog is a case in point.

Adverse Event Reporting Be Damned! Tell Us Your Story!

Meanwhile, if you visit the FibroCenter Web site you may be surprised to find that Pfizer is soliciting stories from patients (note: the same form can be accessed from the site):

“Are you living with fibromyalgia? Would you be willing to share your story with others, so that they may learn from your experience? If so, please answer a few short questions to get started …” (see here).

There are several multiple choice questions, but what shocks me is the box for an open-ended response with the instruction: “Please use this space to share your story about living with fibromyalgia. Please limit your story to 3000 characters or less. (Approximately 500 words.)”


What an opportunity to collect ADVERSE EVENTS, which Pfizer must then submit to the FDA. I always thought — and pharma people have always said — that one of the reasons the industry is shunning Web 2.0 social network sites is the possibility that they would then have to report a slew of adverse events to the FDA. And who wants that? But here is Pfizer doing just that! If nothing else, this can be used as a case study to counteract the main argument pharma has used against social media engagement.

Pfizer also collects personal information that will uniquely identify people who “tell their stories”: “In case it is selected for publishing on the site, we will need to collect your name, city, state, phone number, as well as your e-mail address so that we may notify you. By submitting your information, you agree that it will be governed by the Consent and Release statement below.”

The consent form also admits that Pfizer is collecting personal medical information: “I grant my consent to use my name, biographical data and relevant medical history by Pfizer Inc in any Permitted Use identified below.”

Pfizer, of course, hopes to collect contact information about patients so they can send them information about LYRICA (it says it will do that in the consent form). But it may be collecting more than it bargained for.

For example, Pfizer may collect stories such as the following, which I found in one of the first comments to the Dry Bones blog post I cited above:

“Having put up with Fibro since I was 25 (18 years ago)- I can tell you it exists. I loved the toon! I won’t be taking Lyrica though, I keep it under control through weight control, light exercise and relying on G-d, “for man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from His mouth.”

OK, “G_d” may not be Lyrica’s #1 competitor, but life style changes may be. However, you won’t find THAT option in the main menu at the FibroCenter Web site — “A Community of Education, Support and Understanding for People With Fibromyalgia.” You’ll have to dig deeper.