AIDS Healthcare Foundation Bans Pfizer's Drug Reps From Its Clinics


pfizerLOS ANGELES, Feb. 8 /PRNewswire/ -- Effective immediately, AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), the largest AIDS healthcare, prevention and education provider in the United States which operates free AIDS treatment clinics in the US, Africa, Latin America/Caribbean and Asia, including 13 healthcare centers in California and Florida, has banned pharmaceutical sales representatives from Pfizer Inc., the world's largest drug company, from calling on AHF's medical providers and staff at its healthcare centers. Two weeks ago, AHF filed a lawsuit against Pfizer, the manufacturer of the blockbuster erectile-dysfunction (ED) drug, Viagra (sildenafil citrate), over its irresponsible marketing tactics and advertising for the company's drug.

AHF's move today reinforces its concern over Pfizer's questionable marketing tactics for Viagra that the Foundation believes encourages the recreational use of the popular ED drug, as well as the Foundation's disappointment over the drug giant's lack of response over the past year to repeated concerns raised by AHF. In its letter today (via fax & first class mail) to Pfizer CEO Jeffrey Kindler, AIDS Healthcare Foundation President Michael Weinstein and AHF's Chief of Medicine, Charles Farthing, M.D., stated:

"This letter is to inform you that effective immediately, Pfizer sales representatives are no longer granted access to AIDS Healthcare Foundation's Healthcare Centers.

After repeated attempts to engage Pfizer on the negative impact of its marketing and advertising strategy and tactics for its erectile dysfunction drug, Viagra, there has been no recognition by your organization of the documented correlation between Viagra and the recent rise in sexually transmitted diseases and HIV in men who have sex with men.  In addition, Pfizer has made no attempt to address this alarming trend.

By not taking responsibility for the dangers resulting from the use of Viagra, a blockbuster drug that has generated revenues of $1.65 billion worldwide in 2006, Pfizer does not demonstrate corporate citizenship and responsibility appropriate for an organization that profits from the public's health. It is clear that Pfizer's efforts to educate and inform consumers on its products are without regard for the safety of the consumer, and therefore have no place in the patient-centered environment AIDS Healthcare Foundation provides.

Please inform your representatives that they will no longer be granted access to AHF's 13 Healthcare Centers."
(end of AHF letter to Pfizer Inc.)

"As a treatment provider, AHF's number one priority is protecting the health of people living with HIV/AIDS as well as the general public, and we will persevere in our efforts to educate and inform patients and providers of the potential dangers and increased risks for exposure to sexually transmitted diseases including HIV by people using ED drugs with other drugs such as crystal methamphetamine," said Charles Farthing, M.D., AIDS Healthcare Foundation' Chief of Medicine.

"Pfizer is one of the few and most high profile drug companies in recent memory to be disciplined by the Food and Drug Administration over its drug advertising and marketing -- a move which came about over Pfizer's 'Wild Thing' television commercials for Viagra featuring a handsome forth-something male who sprouted devil's horns in a spot which suggested that Viagra could improve one's sexual vigor rather than treat a diagnosed medical ailment," President Michael Weinstein. "That FDA reprimand came in a November 10, 2004 letter to Pfizer and the company quickly pulled that campaign. Three years later, with increased marketplace pressures, we believe that Pfizer is once again pushing the advertising envelope with Viagra ads that encourage recreational use of the drug rather than address and treat a diagnosed medical condition, and in the process, we believe Pfizer is ultimately jeopardizing the public health and wellbeing with its Viagra advertising campaigns. This is why we are banning Pfizer's drug representatives from our clinics and why we filed the lawsuit."

AIDS Healthcare Foundation brought the legal action -- believed to be the first of its kind against any erectile-dysfunction drug manufacturer over direct to consumer drug advertising practices-which was filed in Superior Court of the State of California, Los Angeles County [Case # BC364983], for "Unlawful, Unfair and Fraudulent Business Practices" in Violation of California Business and Professions Code Section 17200, et seq., and Section 17500 et seq., against Pfizer Inc. and Does 1 through 10] to challenge, "...the unjust and illegal conduct of drug maker Pfizer Inc., whose unlawful and deceptive marketing of its erectile dysfunction drug Viagra has caused an increase in the spread of sexually transmitted diseases including but not limited to HIV/AIDS. Pfizer has engaged in and continues to engage in this conduct despite clear evidence of its illegality and harmful effects."

Over the past few years, the pharmaceutical industry, which had long been operating in a lax regulatory environment, has come under increased public and legislative scrutiny over its marketing tactics and direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertising strategies as well as for drug safety and efficacy issues. The Vioxx scandal drew a harsh spotlight on the industry's techniques, highlighting the role of questionable DTC marketing tactics-which included slick television and print commercials in tandem with aggressive pharmaceutical sales representatives who carefully 'detail' medical providers in their offices, clinics and oftentimes over expensive dinners and lunches. According to "The Drug Pushers," an article in the 'Atlantic Monthly' magazine, "To 'detail' a doctor is to give that doctor information about a company's new drugs, with the aim of persuading the doctor to prescribe them." (Atlantic Monthly, April 2006, by Carl Elliott).

Source: AIDS Healthcare Foundation