Allergan (AGN) offered a journalist $250 for her "insight" into the facial aesthetics business, according to the Association of Health Care Journalists, which received a copy of an email in which the maker of Botox offers to pay writers to attend a conference. Freelance writer Lisa Collier Cool described the Allergan invite as "an all-time low in drug company promotion to the media."
The email said:
The goal of this Panel is to engage in a discussion about current facial aesthetics trends and innovations, perceived gaps in data, and any questions, concerns or misperceptions your readers may have about products and treatments. Allergan will provide an overview of the evolution of the facial aesthetics marketplace and then will open the panel for discussion.Allergan and its PR agency, Chandler Chicco, know better than this. Bribing reporters -- even under the guise of helping them correct "misperceptions" -- is wrong. Chandler Chicco says the whole thing has been misconstrued. The problem is that Allergan has a uniquely aggressive, often confrontational approach to marketing compared to other drug companies. The company cannot help itself:
As a seasoned reporter in this space, we would greatly value your feedback, and we'd like to offer you a stipend of $250 for your attendance and insights.
- Allergan sued the FDA claiming it had a right to promote Botox for unapproved off-label uses such as migraines -- and then settled an investigation by the DOJ alleging it had done just that. And then the FDA approved Botox for migraines anyway.
- Allergan demanded $460,000 in legal fees from an unemployed woman who unsuccessfully sued the company after her 7-year-old daughter died following therapeutic Botox injections for her clenched limbs.
- Allergan responded to an FDA warning about the risk of breast cancer from implants such as Allergan's Natrelle line by denying the FDA's numbers and refusing to call it "cancer."
- Allergan -- again utilizing Chandler Chicco -- worked hard to make sure no science journalists attended the Los Angeles trial of a suit by movie mogul Mike Medavoy's wife, Irena, who claimed Botox left her "bedridden with fatigue." No science writers attended, and Irena lost that case. Six years later, the FDA required a boxed warning on Botox that says the wrinkle-killer may cause "generalized muscle weakness."
(And BTW, where's my $250? I got your insights right here!)