SEN. KENNEDY WILL QUIZ EX-ABBOTT EXEC DAVID JONES AT OPENING DAY OF PROMOTION HEARINGS: NO COMPANIES AGREE TO TESTIFY; GIFTS AND CONFERENCES ON TAP
The centerpieces of Sen. Kennedy's (D-Mass.) Dec. 11-12 hearings will be testimony from a former top PR officer in the industry and the release of survey results on drug company promotional expenditures. In a Dec. 7 press statement, the committee said it is preparing to release "a survey of expenditures by pharmaceutical firms for conferences, gifts and free samples for physicians." The hearings will focus "on the advertising, marketing and promotional practices of U.S. pharmaceutical companies," the committee said. They also will examine "the effect of these practices on drug prices and the prescribing of drugs by physicians." The survey data were compiled from drug company responses to letters committee staff mailed in the summer of 1989 ("The Pink Sheet" Aug. 21, 1989, p. 3). Staff has indicated that the committee received scant response on follow-up questionnaires mailed to the industry last summer. The star witness of the opening session is likely to be David Jones, whom the committee identifies as a former Abbott and Ciba-Geigy official. Jones also worked for Marion and the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association during more than a decade in the drug industry. Jones is an articulate public relations professional with a deep, insider's knowledge of the drug industry. He is neither shrill nor superficial in his criticism of the industry. As the top staffer for former Abbott Chairman Robert Schoellhorn, Jones sat in on two years of PMA board activities, including the tumultous year when the Waxman-Hatch Act was forged. Jones also played key roles in the development of the public image for Marion at the beginning of the 1980s and has a good perspective on that company at the threshold of a major growth and marketing period. Last year in a speech delivered in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, Jones identified himself as a knowledgable critic of industry promotion practices. For example, he maintained that much of industry's R&D expenditures are channeled to postmarketing studies that are largely promotional in nature and compare sponsors' drugs with competitor products. Since leaving the industry in 1987, Jones has been a full-time volunteer lobbyist on AIDS issues in North Carolina, where he has focused on obtaining antidiscrimination legislation and funding for patient services through the state legislature. Other first-day panelists include Branch College (New York City) Assistant Professor of Marketing Eugene Secunda, PhD, and Health Research Group Director Sidney Wolfe, MD. The panel will also include three other physicians -- John Nelson, of Salt Lake City, L. Frederick Fenster of Seattle, Nicole Lurie of Minneapolis -- and Seattle pharmacist Arthur Zoloth, PhD. Witnesses on Dec. 12 are Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association President Mossinghoff and an official of the American Medical Association. The AMA representative is expected to be Daniel Johnson, MD, vice speaker of the association's House of Delegates. Four individual drug manufacturers were invited to testify during the second day but declined. The invited firms were Wyeth-Ayerst, Abbott, Ciba-Geigy and Roche ("The Pink Sheet" Dec. 3, p. 3). Ciba-Geigy reportedly was willing to appear as a witness only if accompanied by representatives of at least two other individual firms. Apparently when Ciba determined it was the sole company willing to appear, it opted instead to submit written testimony. Roche also is believed to be preparing a written statement. FDA will be invited to testify at a follow-up hearing, probably to be scheduled in March of 1991. The agency initially was invited to testify at a third day of hearings scheduled for Dec. 13. However, Commissioner Kessler asked that the hearing be postponed. Kessler expressed an interest in participating in the agency's response despite his newness on the job. The committee agreed to give him more time to settle in before asking him to testify.
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