Washington DC Councilmember David Catania has been pushing a bill to require the licensing of pharmaceutical representatives and to prohibit them from providing knowingly false information to doctors. Many pharmaceutical sales reps try to “influence doctors’ prescribing decisions in ways that have little to do with the best interest of the patient” by resorting to “questionable methods, including providing gifts and meals to doctors” in order to promote their drugs.
Advocates of the pharmaceutical industry responded by launching an anonymous blog site devoted to defending the industry’s practices. The site — BigPharmaRealPeople — “grabbed attention with an enemies list” which included Catania, whom it called “public enemy #1.”
The site’s editors had refused to disclose their names and instead adopted the identities from characters in Ayn Rand’s novel Atlas Shrugged. Recently, a poster named “John Galt” revealed himself to be Scott McTavish, a sales rep, sales manager and director for three Big Pharma Companies over the past 30 years. Blogging over at Pharmalot, Ed Silverman challenges the front group to disclose its sponsorship and backing:
One other thing, Scott. Since you chose not to answer any of our messages directly, we are still curious to know more about your background and those of your ‘staff.’ We would also like to know what, if any, sponsorship or backing you may have. If you really do enjoy an open debate about all the facts, more disclosure would be helpful – unless your site is merely an example of astroturfing dressed up as a social networking experiment.
The avowed mission of the Big Pharma front group’s website is to “remind the American public who is actually on their side” and to “fight ridiculous government rules and regulation that hamper Big Pharma.” The site’s authors write:
The purpose of BigPharmaRealPeople.org is the following: … To point out that corporations are not faceless, evil giants that take advantage of the individual.
The Washington City Paper responds, “Have to say, guys — this anonymous Web site isn’t doing much to combat that whole ‘faceless’ thing.” And the site isn’t having much success thus far. Catania’s bill passed the D.C. City Council on Tuesday.