It's been a good while since I posted anything about exhorbitant gifts to docs or the incredible sums spent by drug firms on marketing, and you might have gotten the impression that things have changed. At least in Australia, apparently not.
The original source for this is
http://www.pharmainfocus.com.au/news.asp?newsid=2953, though you need a subscription to access, apparently. And this is a chance to say thanks to the Healthy Skepticism list serv for tipping me off to this news item.
Anyway, somebody apparently wondered what was the top Pharma event of the year so far Down Under, and the answer turns out to be--Wyeth's million-dollar weekend, dedicated to convincing docs to prescribe their new antidepressant, Pristiq (desvenlafaxine). The sum was reported to the oversight body, Medicines Australia, as tops on the list of all such events sponsored in that country between January and June 2009, with everything on the list sporting a total price tag of about $31M.
Now, you might wonder what it is about Pristiq that would make Wyeth want to spend $1M to promote it, and the answer seems pretty clear. Wyeth's old antidepressant is Effexor (venlafaxine). Effexor is going off patent and becoming available generically. If you remember your old organic chemistry class, you'll note that desvenlafaxine is probably the active stereoisomer of venlafaxine. In other words, all they did was tweak a tiny portion of the Effexor molecule and out came Pristiq--just as Prilosec became Nexium. The old evergreening trick once more, and a classic "me too" drug that has no advantage over older, and now cheaper drugs.