Lundbeck Astroturfing

Lundbeck's Expert Panel, Madrid

There has been much publicity recently on the alcohol industry and their sponsorship of sporting events. I won’t rehash the numerous arguments here but suffice to say, most agree that it’s an unethical alliance. An article by Dr John Scally, TCD (and RCSI) lecturer in Ethics and Theology, expressed the view that there are particular ethical issues involved when accepting sponsorship from the alcohol industry. He stated “No drug has caused more damage to Irish families than alcohol. Of course, the Guinness sponsorship of the hurling championship did not force young people to drink alcohol. Yet it would be naive in the extreme to think that executives of alcohol companies would fork out huge sums of money on sports sponsorship unless there was some boost to their sales in return”. 

To be honest, I’m not really sure what all the fuss is about – there’s no subterfuge, it’s a self-explanatory and transparent relationship. It seems to me that there are far worse examples of industry-funded events, ones that are far from transparent. What of Pharma-funded awareness programmes, companies that just so happen to have a drug that might (or might not) help the same condition they’re creating awareness for? A recent article in Spain’s El País Newspaper (unwittingly) provides an insight into the unethical subterfuge that can often exist behind ‘awareness’ programmes. The article ‘Three-quarters of at-risk drinkers in Spain unaware of dangers of alcohol’ gives a stark warning to Spanish drinkers who ‘consume worrying amounts of booze’. The article comes on the back of a survey done by Danish pharmaceutical company Lundbeck, which was presented by a panel of experts to a symposium in Madrid last week. Following the study on alcohol consumption, the panel of experts called for legislation to regulate alcohol intake, limit access to alcohol and control alcohol-industry advertising. The El País article ends with the line “Each day, the industry spends a million euros promoting alcoholic drinks. This is not ethical.” Okay so far – many would agree that spending a fortune in promoting alcohol products is an unethical practice.

What the article doesn’t say, is that –

  1. Lundbeck, the Pharmaceutical company behind the survey, (coincidentally) manufactures a drug for alcohol dependence, Nalmefene.
  2. Each expert from the panel has many conflicts of interest, including receiving numerous ‘honoraria’ from Lundbeck – all have a vested (and potentially very lucrative) interest in their submissions. Honoraria (plural of honorarium), a confusing word, meaning cash for services rendered.

The Panel of experts –

Julio Bobes, president of Socidrogalcohol, a research organization into alcohol and drug dependence. His conflicts of interest includes receiving honoraria from Lundbeck and being part of the ESENSE 2 Study, a randomized controlled 6-month study of ‘as-needed Nalmefene’, sponsored by Lundbeck.

Antoni Gual, of Barcelona’s Hospital Clinic. His conflicts of interest include- AG has received honoraria, research grants and travel grants from Lundbeck. He wrote numerous Nalmefene papers, including this one he co-wrote with employees of Lundbeck – ‘A randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled, efficacy study of nalmefene, as-needed use, in patients with alcohol dependence’. Lundbeck was involved in the study design, data collection, data analysis, and interpretation of the data. AG was also on the advisory board of Socidrogalcohol.

José Ángel Arbesú of the Spanish Association of Primary Care Medics. His conflicts of interest include being an advisor to Lundbeck and obtaining Lundbeck funding for research, publications and training. He took part in the following study ‘SEMERGEN positioning for the treatment of alcohol disorders in primary care’ with Julio Bobes and Antoni Gual – a study that recommended Lundbeck’s Nalmefene for reducing alcohol consumption.

Javier Zarco of the Spanish Society for Family and Community Medicine, has consulted and obtained funding for advice, research, publications and training activities from Lundbeck.

In 2014 the college of psychiatrists of Ireland called for a ban on Alcohol advertising and sponsorship; it seems ironic that they do not see the glaringly obvious similarities between the latter and the pharmaceutical industry’s funding of academia and of the very studys that medics rely on for basic education. One wonders why the college would focus on sponsorship by the alcohol industry and ignore their own professions alliance with, and allegiance to, the pharmaceutical industry.

El País Article.

4 thoughts on “Lundbeck Astroturfing”

  1. Leonie where or when will it stop. Is it just bereaved parents + families that see whats going on? Or do they really believe that these drugs are not dangerous? Its like the cigarette industry, graphic warnings on the outside of packets…why is there nothing like that on the bloody drug packets ..why does their seem to be corruption involved at every level in these industries? Surely someone somewhere apart from us has to care….great blog

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Sorry Stephanie but I am convinced that caring is far down the list of priorities for the drug manufacturers. Profits and Loss are all. Drug manufacturing/Pharma is a business. Businesses need to be in profit to stay in business. A little white lie can make all the difference between success and failure. So overlooking some small inconvenient aspect like – this drug actually causes some harm makes sense – in business. So let’s disappear this little inconvenient outcome by interpreting it differently and keep our shareholders/financial backing happy. Yes that’s it, the shareholders matter, caring about your child and mine is not on the agenda at all.
    Thanks Leonie for keeping an eye on Lundbeck. There they are quietly beavering away creating drug utopia whilst all are focused on GSK or Merk or some other giant.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Lundbeck’s drug Citalopram can cause alcoholism in some people. Amazing create a problem with one drug and promote another to help the problem. Makes me so angry.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Only basic goodness gives life to technique permanent success; Psychiatrist supposes to serve others. It is essential that psychiatrist continually learning and open to new ideas… They must take responsibility for their behaviour…they suppose to pursue truths and knowledge. If they find truths they must stand up for them.if the pharmaceuticals healthcare doesn’t prepare to change there is no hope for vulnerable people.
    Into the hands of every individual is given a marvelous power for good or evil the silent unconscious, unseen influence of his life.This is simply the constant radiation of what man really is, not what he pretends to be.When the psychiatrist sees things differently they behave differently.Nafsica Kelly

    Liked by 1 person

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