Sunday, April 22, 2012

Depression Alliance – clumsy conflicts of interest once again? « seroxat secrets…

It looks like Depression Alliance (DA) is up to its old tricks again… I have written about DA in the past and criticised the part it played in the marketing of Cymbalta in the UK.

In the case of Cymbalta, the medical PR agency, Packer Forbes, worked with DA on the research and campaign for DA’s annual ‘depression awareness week’ in 2005 – which was funded by Eli Lilly & Boehringer Ingelheim. Packer Forbes also worked for Eli Lilly & Boehringer Ingelheim on the UK launch and marketing of new drug Cymbalta. You can read about it here and here.

In essence the 2005 research for National Depression Week discovered that a major problem in depression was managing the associated “general aches and pains” that come with the condition. At the time Cymbalta was being marketed as an antidepressant with added [not proven] painkilling qualities.

That was a handy coincidence, wasn’t it?

This from Packer Forbes’ website at the time:

Consumer Media Campaign
National Depression Week for Eli Lilly’s/Boehringer Ingelheim’s Cymbalta
National Depression Week is held annually by Depression Alliance, the leading UK charity for people with depression. The 2005 campaign, Pulling Together, which highlighted how people pull together to defeat the illness, was co-sponsored by Lilly and Boehringer Ingelheim.

- Total campaign circulation achieved: 21,569,796
- Within two months the survey report had been downloaded by more than 3,600 visitors to the Depression Alliance website
- In depth coverage by Dr Rob Hicks on Classic FM
- Further national coverage in the Times and on BBC1

So, on to DA’s annual ‘depression awareness week’ 2008. The theme that was developed for DA was The Inside Story: the impact of depression on daily life.

The press release for this year’s ‘awareness week’ finishes like this:

The report also looked at the general impact of depression on daily life and low energy was highlighted as the most distressing aspect of their depression in 75% of cases. A large majority of respondents (83%) stated that their work is adversely affected by poor quality of sleep, helping contribute to over a third (40%) being forced to lose their job.

“Sleep disturbance can have a major impact in people with depression, and this data also highlights the importance of healthcare professionals and patients working in partnership to manage their depression in a way that will not negatively impact on their sleep” concluded Emer O’Neill, Chief Executive at Depression Alliance

So sleep disturbance is a MAJOR problem for people with depression and it is important that depression is managed in way that will not negatively impact on sleep. This is IMPORTANT NEW information coming from Depression Alliance “the leading UK charity for people with depression”.

So it must be true…?

This year DA has been working with Athena Medical PR on the research and campaign for the ‘awareness week’. On the cover of the 12 page Report issued along with the ‘awareness week’ we discover another ‘partner’ The development of this survey and the report into its findings were undertaken in partnership with and funded by Servier Laboratories Limited.

Interestingly, French company Servier, makes Valdoxan (agomelatine) which is an antidepressant, but with added qualities. Says Servier “the drug’s unique profile could make it an exciting and innovative product, but it will face stiff competition from top-selling antidepressants already established in the market… As well as treating the main symptoms of depression, the drug also helps to improve daytime alertness by normalising the timing and continuity of sleep, a problem that Servier says is common in patients.

That’s handy. So Valdoxan could be just the thing patients need – as the new survey from Depression Alliance has discovered that sleep disturbance is a real problem. But hold on, The development of this survey and the report into its findings were undertaken in partnership with and funded by Servier Laboratories Limited.

That’s a bit of a coincidence isn’t it?

And here’s another coincidence – Servier Laboratories this week [02 March 2006] confirmed the UK agency support behind its new anti-depressant, Valdoxan. Athena Medical PR secured the contract to steer the brand to market. The drug is the French firm’s first foray into the UK mental health arena, with Valdoxan poised to enter the controversial and crowded market ‘during 2007′.

Valdoxan combines antidepressant efficacy with ‘favourable’ side effects – it has the additional benefit of sleep regulation in depressive patients, according to data unveiled last year.


So in 2005 we had Depression Alliance research and report, Packer Forbes, Eli Lilly & Boehringer Ingelheim, new drug Cymbalta & “general aches and pains”.

In 2008 we have Depression Alliance research and report, Athena Medical PR, Servier Laboratories, new drug Valdoxan and “sleep disturbance”.


I’m sure that most, if not all, of the GPs in the UK were sent the research and reports (as if) from Depression Alliance. I’m also sure that Lilly and Servier drug reps will have relied on the same research and reports to help sell their product.

If you want to go further back into the history of Depression Alliance and the various individuals connected to the organisation then I suggest you read here and here and here and here.

One last point – in the case of this year’s research and report, the findings were based on only 288 replies…

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