According to Daniel Carlat, MD, author of the The Carlat Psychiatry Report and the Carlat Psychiatry Blog, Takeda — the folks that brought us the sleep aid Rozerem — paid Gary Richardson, M.D., who is a prominent Takeda speaker, and colleagues to write articles in a Takeda-sponsored edition of Clinical Symposia (see “Takeda’s Clinical Symposia: It’s all about Rozerem“).

“In addition,” says Carlat, “[the website] [is] chaired by Richardson, funded by Takeda, and provid[es] CME credit for reading journal articles on insomnia. I suggest you click on ‘archived events’ and scan through the 11 articles posted thus far. I went through this exercise in an effort to determine whether the articles chosen were biased either in favor of Rozerem or againsts (sic) its competitors.”

Carlat’s conclusion:

“In my analysis … 7 out of 11 articles in this Takeda-sponsored CME [Continuing Medical Education] program are promotional of Rozerem.

“Mais bien sur, you say. Why else would Takeda pay Richardson and colleagues to chair this journal club? If they didn’t choose articles that made Takeda happy, these physicians would be ‘missing their dreams’ of fat honoraria checks!”

The Sleep Journal Club is sponsored by Takeda and many of the physician authors have financial ties to Takeda, such as these:

Gary S. Richardson

  • Advisory Boards: Takeda, Sanofi-Aventis, King, Cephalon
  • Speakers’ Bureaus: Takeda, Sanofi-Aventis, King
  • Contracted Research: Vanda, Cephalon, Takeda

Gary K. Zammit

  • Grant/Research Support: Ancile Pharmaceuticals, Arena, Aventis, Cephalon Inc., Elan, Epix, Forest, GlaxoSmithKline, H. Lundbeck A/S, King Pharmaceuticals, Merck & Co., National Institute of Health, Neurim, Neurocrine Biosciences, Neurogen, Organon, Orphan Medical, Pfizer, Respironics, sanofi-aventis, sanofi-synthelabo, Schering-Plough, Sepracor, Somaxon, Takeda Pharmaceuticals North America, UCB Pharma, Predix, Vanda, Wyeht-Ayerst Research
  • Consulting Fees: Aventis, Cephalon, Elan, GlaxoSmithKline, Jazz Pharmaceuticals, King Pharamceuticals, Merck, Neuorocrine Biosciences, Organon, Pfizer, sanofi-aventis, Sepracor, Shire, Takeda Pharmaceuticals
  • Ownership Interest: Clinilabs, Inc., Clinilabs IPA, Inc., Clinilabs Physicians Services, PC

I would be surprised if Zammit has any time to actually treat patients!

So much for unbiased CME!

To add insult to injury, an article in the New York Times, entitled “Sleep Drugs Found only Mildly Effective, but Wildly Popular,” starts out with “Your dreams miss you.” — the tagline infamously associated with Abe Lincoln and a beaver in Rozerem DTC ads, which, according to Lee Weinblatt, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of PreTesting, “don’t work for many reasons.”

“First of all,” said Weinblatt “we found out [through testing] the beaver was a turnoff. Whenever test group respondents would focus on it, their interest went down like a rock. In addition, they remembered the beaver and Abe Lincoln, but they couldn’t remember the name of the product. On top of that, we found the ad was very poor in terms of “Is this brand unique?” Readers had no idea what made this product different.” (See “Direct to Consumer: All Eyes on You.“)

Well, STEPHANIE SAUL, the author of the NY Times article, must have felt obliged to compensate for the deficiency of the Rozerem DTC campaign. She ended her article thusly:

“Rozerem, with its unusual advertising campaign, has at least one benefit over other medications. Because it works by a different mechanism from the others, it is not a controlled substance and apparently does not affect the ability to form memories. It may be the sleeping pill of choice for elderly people who have trouble falling asleep, but suffer memory problems.”

I wonder if Stephanie received an honorarium from Takeda as well?

P.S. To hear more of Lee Weinblatt’s views on Rozerem DTC ads, listen to the recent Pharma Marketing Talk podcast: “Your DTC Ads Stink!

P.P.S. To hear more of Daniel Carlat’s views on pharmaceutical company support of CME, listen to this recent Pharma Marketing Talk podcast: “Welcome to the CME Laundromat!