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July-August 2007 Briefing
In This Briefing:
Why is it that a manufacturer of a reputable drug for psoriasis feels compelled to engage in reprehensible marketing tactics? Centocor, the manufacturer of Remicade, a well established biologic recently approved for the treatment of psoriasis, wants you to learn about their product AFTER you’ve provided all your contact information in the blind at www.learnpsoriasis.com. If you just saw their information-less TV commercial and went to that site, you’d have no idea what you’re about to be pitched — other than it treats psoriasis — until you’ve paid for the privilege with your contact information. That means you must first provide through an online form your name, your physical address, your email address and agree to receive, in effect, junk mail and SPAM from Centocor.
I did it because I view such ventures as “news gathering” for FlakeHQ. Perhaps I can save you the trouble. (Do you really need more SPAM and junk mail? And if they don’t intend to send it to you, why do they need your email address and physical address?)
Here’s what you need to hear about Remicade — and I’m happy to share it without requiring ANY contact information from you: It’s a great biologic; been used by 843,000 patients to treat a number of autoimmune diseases and, including trials, has been around for 14 years. If I thought my schedule could conform to in-office IV infusions (every 8 weeks after the first 3) I’d be on Remicade myself. (My rheumy recommended it over Humira, but I opted for the latter because you self-administer Humira through subcutaneous injection.)
Remicade is a protein that neutralizes TNF-alpha, one of the blood components associated with the formation of psoriatic inflammation (both skin and joints). It was approved for the treatment of psoriatic arthritis in May, 2005, and for plaque psoriasis in September, 2006. It is still too new in the psoriasis community to determine how it will fare against other biologics previously approved. One of its marketing challenges is the IV infusion administration. Rheumatologists have been providing this service to far more patients than dermatologists, meaning more flakers with psoriatic arthritis are likely to find using Remicade is feasible through their rheumies. My derm, as example, is not set up to handle IV infusion treatments.
I can’t help but wonder if a part of Centocor’s awful TV commercial/web marketing strategy is a grass-roots ploy to compel more derms to administer Remicade? That makes sense to me — though it doesn’t make the ad tactic any more palatable — because how many derms are going to entertain prescribing a drug they are not set up to administer? For those of us without psoriatic arthritis — and therefore no need to have a rheumy in our arsenal of doctors — our derms are unlikely to prescribe what they can’t administer. Having lots of flaking patients asking about Remicade might help derms decide to handle IV infusion therapy.
A couple of weeks after I forked over my personal information on the LearnPsoriasis.com web site, I received a DVD in the mail, packaged with more literature about Remicade. Neither the DVD nor its attendant literature added anything new to the story I received at the web site (after forking over my info). I guess this was a double-barreled marketing tactic (if they won’t read or watch a video on the web, maybe they’ll read something on paper and watch a DVD). I wish Centocor would have been more forthcoming in their advertising.
To recap: Centocor is apparently spending exorbitantly on patient awareness/education, and employing unpleasant gorilla advertising tactics, because they might not be so well-received by derms — at least, not by those who can’t or won’t do IV infusions. Get us on their side (!) and maybe derms will reconsider. Well, here’s another thought: Maybe it’s time the treatment of psoriasis “graduated” out of dermatology. It’s an immune system disorder. It’s just the visible symptoms that have us parked in dermatology waiting rooms. After nearly a century of attention from derms, and a cure not yet in sight, not to mention we haven’t even discovered a consistently reliable palliative, perhaps we are lining up behind the wrong tradesmen. Here’s a clue: I haven’t seen my derm about psoriasis for well over a year. My Humira therapy is prescribed by my rheumatologist, and it works better than anything I’ve received from a derm. Ironically, my rheumy predicts Centocor’s Remicade would work even better than Humira, if only my schedule allowed for the in-office IV infusions.
In this update's Mail, be sure and read Itchy and Crampy in NY's follow-up on her Remicade experience. It's a multipart email; and you don't want to stop reading until you get to its surprising end (for now). Also read Patricia R's encouraging report about Remicade.
Were you aware that, currently, biologic drugs are an exception to the standard rules for migrating a patented drug into generic availability? I wasn’t, either, until not too long ago. Evidently the exception for biologics was wriggled into the regs on the strength of arguments about their high cost to develop and manufacture. In any event, that exclusivity is beginning to be attacked. Read this for current info: Path for Generic Biologics Passes U.S. Senate Panel (Scientific American, 6/29/2007).
The University of Michigan is conducting a study about the genetics of psoriasis. If you haven’t already, checkout this email I received from the National Psoriasis Foundation.
For about five years, now, I’ve been corresponding with Mike Bailin (“Mike B.”) a Canadian sixty-something who writes with a distinctly American accent, a tireless wit, and a self-effacing excuse-me-I’m-brain-damaged slant on life that I find ... well, compelling. Throughout these years, questions about and surrounding Mike have nagged me and finally made me decide I needed to interview him. The experience didn’t disappoint me.
Mike is the only regular correspondent to FlakeHQ who has been hospitalized twice for erythrodermic P — a rare and dangerous form of our disease. What he has to say about the experience helped me breathe easier and, hopefully, will diminish other readers’ anxieties, too.
Mike also comments on the nationalized health care system in Canada. An interesting related article can be found now at the Scientific American web site: “We're Number Two: Canada Has as Good or Better Health Care than the U.S.: Despite spending half what the U.S. does on health care, Canada doesn't appear to be any worse at looking after the health of its citizens” by Christopher Mims. I came across Mim’s article by happenstance, just days after finishing my interview with Mike.
Sherry Sheehan’s latest contribution to FlakeHQ is the poem “Gods Play With Us.” I dare anyone to read this without imagining they are wearing sandals and a toga! Enjoy! Sherry Sheehan Page —or direct to: Gods Play With Us.