New York Times Examines Use of Celebrities in Pharmaceutical Campaigns
The New York Times on Sunday examined the use of celebrities by pharmaceutical companies for disease awareness campaigns, in which they often "mention brand-name drugs without disclosing their financial ties to the maker." A number of celebrities, including Lauren Bacall, Rob Lowe and Noah Wyle, have received "hefty fees" to "disclose intimate details of ailments that affect them or people close to them" on television talk shows and morning news programs. The FDA has placed a number of restrictions on prescription drug advertisements, and many pharmaceutical companies have launched "what they describe as campaigns to raise awareness about a disease" to avoid the regulations, the Times reports. Dr. Jonathan Sackier, the founder of Los Angeles-based Spotlight Health, a company that develops medical education campaigns with celebrities for health care concerns, said, "When a celebrity talks about something, everyone stands up and takes notice." However, some opponents said that the practice "raises a host of issues." Dr. Joseph Turow, a professor at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania, said, "We admire these people and that is why drug companies pay for their time and services. But when it comes to issues of health, particularly medicines, transparency is an ethical concern." He added, "People should be clear about the reasons they are making certain recommendations." Eddie Michaels, an agent for "ER" star Noah Wyle, whom Pfizer Inc. has hired to speak about post-traumatic stress disorder, said, "Most actors are not interested in promoting a drug. The message has to be one that will bring awareness and not one to sell." He added, "Sure, the pharmaceutical company gets some return but it is much more about education than an advertisement" (Petersen, New York Times, 8/11).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.