The best way to counteract an argument based on data — like Avandia side effect data from a meta analysis of clinical trials — is to accuse your opponent of “cherry picking” the data to suite his/her argument.

CNN’s Dr. Gupta did this to counteract Michael Moore’s citation of HHS longevity data (see video here). It seems that Gupta preferred WHO cherries over HHS cherries.

Definition of cherry picking according to Wikipedia:

“In the literal case of harvesting cherries, or any other fruit, the picker would be expected to only select the ripest and healthiest fruits. An observer who only sees the selected fruit may thus wrongly conclude that most, or even all, of the fruit is in such good condition.

“Thus, cherry picking is used metaphorically to indicate the act of pointing at individual cases or data that seem to confirm a particular position, while ignoring a significant portion of related cases or data that may contradict that position.”

For a long time now, consultants with a vested interest — ie, financial interest — in eMarketing have repeatedly cherry-picked data to support the notion that Big Pharma is on the verge of shifting massive amounts of marketing dough to online venues. See, for example, my OpEd piece from 2002: “What Stands in the Way of the Mainstream Use of the Internet by Pharmaceutical Companies?

Annual DTC Industry Checkup
The latest “Annual DTC Industry Checkup” (download it here) survey published by Dendrite is a case in point. The press release “DTC Marketing for U.S. Prescription Drugs Moves Online” says it all — all, that is, if you actually believe the opinions of 134 “DTC Marketers,” 94 (70%) of whom are vendors, consultants, or ad agency people, are unbiased. The remaining 40 (30%) are employed inside the drug industry. Even they are not likely to be unbiased.

Actually, this press release says it all only if you cherry pick the data!

Figure 9 in the survey white paper summary (below), includes ALL the data. Although it shows “Websites” leading the pack in where most respondents said pharma should increase spending, other decidedly non-online, channels like Dr. Office Programs and Pharmacy Programs are close behind.

Click on the image to see enlarged view.

DTC Moves to Pharmacy Shelves
If I were a pharmacy promotion vendor, I could easily pick some other cherries and write a press release that said “DTC Moves to Pharmacy Shelves!” Hmmm… maybe it’s time to bring high-tech to THAT channel. If you want to meet some people who can do that for YOUR brand, email me ( and I will put you in touch.

Don’t Count These Pharmacos Out of the New Mix
Although I might question the scientific accuracy of the Dendrite survey and criticize the self-aggrandizing cherry picking promotion, some pharma companies may actually be planning to do much more marketing online in the near future than they have down in the recent past.

I would put Johnson and Johnson, GSK, and Merck in that category.

J&J and GSK, for example, have recently dipped their toes into social network marketing by starting up blogs (see “‘Round the Sphere: Pharmaco Blogs and Carlat’s Crusade“). Merck recently announced a plan to reformulate its marketing mix and put new emphasis on technology (see “Rejiggering the Marketing Mix a la Merck“).