Since my last post about Schering-Plough's campaign to buy off doctors with invitations to join its Speaker's Bureau, a number of my colleagues have reported receiving their own invitations. Strangely, many of them are prominent opponents of industry-funded medical education.
For example, Ivan Goldberg, creator of the popular website Depression Central, and an outspoken critic of drug industry manipulation of doctors, received this letter. Check it out, because it's a little different from the one I got. They offered me $170,000 for 125 presentations (of 45 minutes each), while they offered Dr. Goldberg more money ($179,500) for fewer (only 96) presentations. In a phone conversation with Dr. Goldberg, he suggested that the differential was due to the fact that he lives in expensive New York City, but I assumed that Schering-Plough marketers calculated that he is worth more to them than I am. After all, they also offered Goldberg the lucrative gig of up to 5 "train-the-trainer" spots at $4500 apiece. This is where they would fly him to a meeting to stand at the podium and teach the teeming hordes of wannabe hired guns how to most effectively prostitute themselves.
Why is Schering-Plough sending these corrupting invitations to all the wrong people? Maybe the company employee in charge of identifying potential hired guns simply screwed up and didn't vet the mailing list adequately. Dr. Goldberg offered a different theory. He opined that perhaps all the bad PR about drug companies buying off doctors is dissuading MD's from accepting these gigs. Therefore, perhaps Schering-Plough is now forced to send out invitations to everybody, including "B" players and industry critics, in order to achieve their critical mass of Dr. Drug Reps.
What a fiasco for the company. Talk about a bad stumble as they are about to launch their new antipsychotic. I haven't heard any official Schering-Plough comment on this matter yet, but here is how I predict the statement will read: "Speaker programs are intended to enhance a healthcare professional's knowledge and patient care expertise." Wait--they can't use that line, because it was already used by Eli Lilly. I guess they'll have to make up their own sophisticated BS.