It was proclaimed yesterday in the Daily Mail that ‘Junk food is as addictive as heroin’. The word EXAGGERATION springs to mind. Not that I doubt the scientific credentials of the research, but comparing our love for chocolate cake to smack, do you not think that’s a bit of a stretch? Have you ever heard of someone who’d been mugged by an addict to feed his Milky Way habit or a corner shop raided for its Curly Wurlys? Perhaps it’s time we stopped using the term addict so liberally, because I’m pretty sure I could be accused of being addicted to Bacon Frazzles and Ribena.
Posts Tagged ‘Daily Mail’
The headline ‘Bespoke Cancer Cure’ hit the front page of the Daily Mail yesterday. Not that one would question the credibility of the Daily Mail’s reporting, but my first reaction was to assume huge exaggeration on the Mail’s part. However, they’re not that far off the mark. Scientists at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Cambridge have sequenced the DNA mutations that lead to both lung and skin cancer. This ground breaking discovery opens up a huge range of possibilities, from early identification of the cancer to new and better targeted treatments.
Without trying to detract from the importance of such a discovery, I think it is fair to say that it is a rare occurrence when a cancer related story doesn’t hit the headlines in some form or another. However, with expressions such as ‘DNA mutation‘ or ‘Genetic abnormalities’, there does seem to be a certain level of scientific understanding assumed. So for those of you who are not experts in cancer genetics, and more importantly, those of you who care, I have written a basic explanation of the origins of cancer.
What causes cancer?
Essentially, cancers are caused by specific abnormalities in the genetic material of cells. Every cell has a series of natural defence mechanisms in order to prevent a cancerous growth occurring. However, if all of these mechanisms are bypassed then the cell will become cancerous and a malignant tumour may form. Below is a brief outline of the various stages a cell must overcome in order to become cancerous.
So hopefully with a greater understanding of the origins of cancer, you will be in a better position to truly appreciate the importance of this latest breakthrough. By being able to identify the very point when a cells defence system begins to break down, we may one day be in a position to identify and eliminate cancer before it even begins.
Although this piece covers POM-to-P drug switches (taking a prescription only medicine, POM, and making it available through Pharmacy, P) the principles discussed apply to any form of product launch, so please read on even if you’re not involved in a POM-to-P switch.
You may have read in the media about the launch of an over-the-counter (OTC) weight loss pill called Alli. Previously only available on prescription the European Commission announced at the start of the year that it could be made available through pharmacy. I have a lot of experience in POM-to-P switches and have followed Alli‘s progress with great interest. Alli will soon be available from a pharmacy near you so I thought I’d take this chance to review the coverage it has received to date.
What has been fascinating, and ultimately what prompted me to write this blog, is how the media, and then the public, have reacted to this announcement. This is a classic demonstration of no matter how hard you work to get a responsible, non-sensationalist message out to the public about a product, when you finally make an announcement what actually gets printed can be very different.
Exhibit A – The Daily Mail, 6th Jan, runs the following headline “Diet pill helps woman drop a dress size”. ‘Drop a dress size’, could this be any further from what a diet pill for the clinically obese is designed for? It makes it sound like it’s a quick fix to get you from a size 12 to a 10 for your holidays. I’ve checked the GSK release about this announcement and it largely contains responsible messages like “lose weight gradually and steadily” and “in conjunction with a reduced calorie, lower-fat diet”. It never mentions or even alludes to the ‘drop a dress size’ opportunity at any point. When the story eventually appeared online 2 weeks later the headline was thankfully changed to a more appropriate “£1-a-day anti-obesity pill is going on sale without prescription”.
Exhibit B – That week a colleague of a friend of mine sprints into her office and proclaims, with some excitement, that there is a new pill that is going to help her lose weight. To provide you with some background my friend works in a highly respected profession and her colleague is someone I would put in the “successful, intelligent, rational human being” category. Furthermore, despite having two children she is at most a size 10 and if she wanted to lose weight it would be for purely personal rather than medical reasons. Now if someone like this can reach such a conclusion then where is the hope for others? Now I’m not saying it was the Daily Mail’s fault but coverage like theirs surely contributed to such a conclusion being drawn.
Exhibit C – The Daily Mail (yes again), 26th Jan, runs the following headline “Revealed: The true cost of the £1 diet pill hailed as a weight-loss wonder drug”. Hang on, 2 weeks ago you were the ones “hailing” it as such. This article was about the ‘terrible side effects’ this treatment has. Well, it is true it does have nasty side effects but these are well publicised, so why didn’t they mention them 2 weeks ago when they were ‘dropping a dress size’. Whereas the first article focused very heavily on the positives, this article solely covered the negatives, again not what you’d describe as balanced coverage.
The worst part of this is that it is the media that are always quick to criticise Pharma for inappropriately marketing its products but it should really take a long hard look at itself before it starts wagging its finger.
So what’s the answer? How can we navigate our way through this minefield and gain balanced coverage for POM-to-P drug launches (or any product launch for that matter).
Well the truth is there is no simple answer. It’s always going to be hard to gain balanced coverage, especially in areas such as weight-lose where people are desperate to believe that there are quick fixes.
What you can do though is stick to the following:
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