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How the stigma was invented by a drug company

Discussion in 'Rant & Rave' started by Vidhya, Dec 17, 2011.

  1. Vidhya

    Vidhya Active Member



    The ‘herpes stigma’ is a comparatively recent phenomenon and results from a pharmaceutical marketing exercise. Prior to the development of antiviral drugs, cold sores and genital herpes (both caused by herpes simplex viruses) were only treated symptomatically – symptoms could be alleviated but not prevented. Neither condition was considered to be a significant medical problem – standard medical textbooks such as “Obstetric and Gynaecological Nursing” by Rosemary E Bailey, 1978 edition, did not even mention it.

    A 1975 study of “Psychological morbidity in a clinic for sexually-transmitted disease” (Richard Mayou, The London Hospital).[1] In the Journal of Clinical Investigation,[2] Pedro Cuatrecasas states, “during the R&D of acyclovir (Zovirax), marketing [department of Burroughs Wellcome] insisted that there were ‘no markets’ for this compound. Most had hardly heard of genital herpes...” Thus marketing the medical condition – separating the ‘normal cold sore’ from the ‘stigmatized genital infection’ was to become the key to marketing the drug, a process now known as ‘disease mongering’[3]

    The ‘awareness’ or concern among patients, caused by this disease-mongering led directly to the meeting of Blanks and Woddis and the birth of the Herpes Viruses Association, though it was some time before the connection between the two events was fully appreciated.

    In the USA, prescription drugs can be advertised directly to the public. The Burroughs Wellcome advertising campaign was designed to stimulate demand for Zovirax by alarming patients about the social consequences of infection and emphasising that the drug could reduce outbreaks and transmission.

    The campaign created the stigma which has clung to genital herpes ever since.[4][5][6]

    It is conjectured that the reason for lack of the same level of stigma in many non-English speaking countries is that, in many languages, the word 'herpes' is used for cold sores. Therefore when a genital infection is labelled 'herpes', the link to granny's cold sores is made. This makes it less likely that the patient will be alarmed by the diagnosis.

  2. WarriorKing

    WarriorKing Staff Member

    • Super Moderator
    Yes. Invention is the correct word. Herpes has been a part of normal life for over 4500 years.
  3. Vidhya

    Vidhya Active Member

    Probably longer, but than again GlaxoSmithKlein and "the daily Valtrex" weren't around by then. A few thoughts:

    - In societies where drug companies cannot advertize prescription medication to the public directly, the way Glaxo did in the US, the stigma was not created. I would say that's the case of most European societies, where herpes remains a private medical condition. We don't obsessively talk about it, we do not indulge ourselves in the creation and recreation of this "disease" in the public sphere or through the media, we do not make it into a public health catastrophe, and somehow, we've managed to stay well behind the US in terms of infection rates (1 in 4 or 5 people may be infected with HSV 2 in the US, in Europe it may be around 1 in 9 or 10 in most countries). Some attempts have been made by this same company, and also Novartis, to convince the medical community in Europe that there is a catastrophe down here as well and that herpes is very serious and people need more medication, but apparently with not much sucess. They have sponsored several studies to evaluate HSV 2 rates in Europe - in the name of science and the common good, of course - but this literature remains confined to a few medical magazines and did not have a great impact.

    - It's good that we have medication to treat this condition, but in the end what really moves these people is money, and they need to make it, whichever way they can. The latest trend - once again in the US - is to convince people that they should not treat their herpes episodically, but supressively: take medication every day. High profile so called "specialists" are paid and sponsored to launch and relaunch studies about "viral shedding" that can only be stopped through Valtrex, and if we already knew that people with herpes might be at higher risk of contracting HIV due to having occasional sores, now the Glaxo sponsored studies take it to microcelular level, showing that even without sores there's enough stuff there to put you at risk all the time, no matter what you do to protect yourself. More and more studies are also sponsored to show that people are shedding virus from every corner and are infectious all the time. They know that with all this negative propaganda what HSV positive people fear the most is to infect anyone else with the virus. They can be told that suppressive therapy is the only way to stop infecting everybody and get at least some peace of mind.

    - All this suffering and pain and torture and stigma people go through began one fine day, not long ago, when this company began this marketing strategy. The American teenage girl that collapses in front of her doctor, crying and wishing to kill herself because of herpes is paying the price of this marketing. Soon, through the Internet, this kind of phenomenon might spread to other places outside the US - as it did in most Anglo-Saxon countries. That possibility truly bothers me.
    Last edited: Dec 18, 2011
  4. wastedhousewife

    wastedhousewife Active Member

    For some reason (probably because we don't have as many "real" problems as people in other parts of the world who have to worry about civil wars and communism, for instance), American's seem to have more time to be afraid of very simple things. Especially things that well-timed marketing campaigns have taught us to fear! Thanks for this post!
  5. Vidhya

    Vidhya Active Member

    Thank you also for commenting wastedhousewife ;)
  6. Vidhya

    Vidhya Active Member

    Excerpt from Nigel Scott's article in Spiked magazine, "The courts should keep out of our sex lives", which can be read here:
    You might also find interesting how this same company made huge profits in the early 90s through grotesque and very criticized ads directed to HIV positive gay men, when few drugs were available to treat this condition: http://www.virusmyth.com/aids/hiv/jlvoodoo.htm


    Nigel Scott, who is also a Lib-Dem politician in the UK

    The start of modern sexual health services

    The history of the genital herpes stigma dates back a mere 30 years. Before then, the condition, which was first named by the Ancient Greeks, was well known to doctors – but it was not invested with the terror it commands today and the word herpes barely registered with the public.Two viruses are responsible for genital herpes and facial cold sores. They are called herpes simplex type 1 (HSV-1) and herpes simplex type 2 (HSV-2). Either virus may be caught in either place.

    The modern era of sexual health treatment in the UK began in 1917, with the passing of the Venereal Disease Act as millions of soldiers mobilised during the First World War returned and began to infect their partners with the ‘social diseases’ they had acquired. This was a public-health crisis that terrified the government of the day, so a network of publicly funded clinics was set up. The Act named syphilis, gonorrhoea and soft chancre (or chancroid) as dangerous diseases for which free treatment was to become compulsory. Genital herpes did not get a look in. It was known to be a common, self-limiting condition and was rightly considered to be no more serious than a facial cold sore.

    Little changed in the intervening 60 years. Public-health films were shown in cinemas to encourage fidelity and abstinence, and these films highlighted the horrors of syphilis and gonorrhoea while herpes was ignored. Indeed, genital herpes was so far below the radar that, as recently as 1975, the standard textbook for obstetric and gynaecological nursing did not even have the word herpes in the index. This omission would be unimaginable today.

    The role of antiviral drugs

    Meanwhile, antibiotics had succeeded in vanquishing previously feared bacterial infections like syphilis and gonorrhoea. Pharmaceutical research moved on to the next holy grail: antiviral drugs.

    Finally in the late 1970s, one company, Burroughs Wellcome, succeeded, but it came up with an antiviral drug that only worked on viruses that were emphatically not in the frontline of dangerous diseases. The drug, aciclovir, only treated herpes simplex and herpes varicella/zoster – the viruses responsible for genital herpes/cold sores and chickenpox/shingles respectively. Patients with these relatively unimportant infections had, until then, only been offered palliatives. All these conditions are essentially self-limiting and they clear in days without treatment. Herpes simplex may recur in a milder form before symptoms clear once again. Chickenpox is a common childhood ailment that scarcely affects healthy children and causes no further problems unless it recurs as shingles, which mainly occurs in the elderly.

    So having developed aciclovir, the drug company required a return on investment. But its marketing men had a problem: none of the conditions the drug might be used for required treatment except in extreme cases.

    The herpes stigma is born

    The answer was to pitch the drug at genital herpes patients. The trick would be to persuade them that the condition was serious enough to warrant expensive drug treatment. A disease-awareness campaign was organised to alert doctors and patients to the benefits of the new drug. The case was made by ‘marketing’ genital herpes so that it acquired the status of an important disease.

    The strategy was spectacularly successful. Articles began to appear in newspapers. In the US, herpes became the cover story for Time magazine twice. Anything negative about the condition was highlighted in order to raise public concern. The word ‘incurable’ was harnessed to make genital cold sores seem serious. Rare cases of fetal infection were described as if they posed a threat to every infected pregnant woman. The herpes stigma was born.

    Disease-mongering had gone mainstream. The trick had been to market herpes, not aciclovir. Once herpes hit the big time, the success of aciclovir was assured. This echoed the marketing of the antiseptic mouthwash Listerine in the 1920s, which turned a floor cleaner into a cure for ‘chronic halitosis’. In the words of advertising scholar James B Twitchell, ‘Listerine did not make mouthwash as much as it made halitosis’.

    In America, Burroughs Wellcome sponsored support groups to advise ‘sufferers’ of the benefits of the new drug. In the UK, a charity emerged, the Herpes Viruses Association (HVA), which I now work for. It was oblivious to the fact that its appearance had been prompted by a drug-marketing campaign. A helpline was set up and was immediately besieged by newly distraught patients. One said, ‘I wish I had cancer, then at least people would feel sorry for me. As it is, I can’t even tell them what I’ve got.’ The HVA’s first director believed that if he spent two or three years setting the record straight, the charity could then be wound up. Thirty years later, it is still going strong and is needed more than ever.

    Genital herpes is now accepted as one of the most stigmatised of all medical conditions. A Harris Interactive poll in the US in 2007 found that 39 per cent of patients were troubled by social stigma and 38 per cent made up excuses to avoid sex during an outbreak, rather than tell a partner. Only HIV was ranked higher for stigma, a truly bizarre finding for a virus that is carried by at least three quarters of the population.

    Herpes: common and largely undiagnosed

    Herpes simplex is a largely hidden condition because most people get mild symptoms or none at all, so they are not diagnosed. Prevalence is high and one recent study of women between the ages of 35 and 44 found that 85 per cent have HSV-1 and 22 per cent have HSV-2. The HVA divides its time between advising a relatively small number of people who experience recurrent symptoms and reassuring a much larger number about transmission. Symptoms can usually be treated or prevented once people know what to do about them.

    A more difficult task is explaining the origin of the stigma and the reasons why it is unnecessary. Marian Nicholson, the HVA’s director said, ‘Over and over again, callers to our helpline say, “I can deal with my symptoms, they don’t bother me, but I am terrified of passing this on to a new partner.”’ Sufferers fear rejection, although an HVA survey has shown that this usually doesn’t happen. The artificially created stigma has caused the problem that has given this charity its raison d’être. Genital herpes is now perceived as a social and sexual death sentence. (...)

    Last edited: Dec 26, 2011
  7. Movingslowly

    Movingslowly Active Member

    Thanks for broadening my horizons! Any form of business is out to make a dollar. I didnt spend six years in college to be the average Jane. I love my career and truly have a passion for it, but my number one reason I work exhausting long hours is for the money. Most of us go to work everyday because its our only way of surviving. More money is always welcomed, but its not without long tedious workdays. That marketing strategy created a stigma that holds much power.
  8. Vidhya

    Vidhya Active Member

    Movingslowly, thanks for commenting. This marketing strategy is the reason why people go through these horrors in the US (and in this forum). In places where these companies were not able to advertize to the public directly - like in Europe, for example - the stigma was not created. Forum members from several European countries and also Asia who've posted here have repeatedly said that. It seems to be a unique US paranoia, that has also spread, partially, to places like Australia or Canada, or the UK. The only way people will ever get rid of this down there is by exposing how it all began and how this stigma is maintained and perpetuated by these companies and their "sponsored" doctors and studies.

    Another way these drug companies (Glaxo and Novartis) have found to promote their products for the "incurable disease", "the virus for life", is by recruiting some naif people, like this lady in Australia, called Jeannie May, who sees herself as a "herpes awareness campaigner" and goes on to promote studies by the drug companies, that do little more than to scare people. Anything sponsored by the drugs companies invariably promotes more stigma.



    "Coincidentally, only a couple of weeks later, I have been offered an opportunity to realise that goal, taking Living Sphere to the people, in a completely different way – via the medium of television.

    The Australian Herpes Management Forum (AHMF) are publicising the results of a new study which shows that women are twice as likely to contract genital herpes. The new statistics are 1:6 for women, and 1:8 in general.

    I have been invited to particiapte in a couple of media opportunities to promote the results of this study on national television.

    On the 18th May I was interviewed for a brief segment on Channel 9 News; followed by a live TV appearance on Channel 10′s 9am with David & Kim on the 29th May.

    The opportunity to talk on TV about herpes and the challenges faced by people who have it is extraordinary. This is really getting herpes awareness ‘out there’. I could not have dreamt of a more exciting outcome!"

    The Australian Herpes Management Forum is, obviously, funded entirely by Novartis, that makes the drug Famvir.
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2012
  9. Movingslowly

    Movingslowly Active Member

    I believing suppressive therapy isnt efficient. I developed resitance to two antivirals so those drug companies are no longer getting my $. I honestly wish for a therapeutic vaccine that eliminates or nearly eliminates all outbreaks and reduces transmission rates to nearly nothing. Just a one time shot in the arm would be ideal. Its a more feasible way to control the painful outbreaks and restore healthy relationships. Im thankful to be alive, but these painful outbreaks of blisters on the most sacred part of my body are destroying my overall health. All this from an asymptomatic partner.
  10. Movingslowly

    Movingslowly Active Member

    There really needs to be a more effective way to controlling herpes viruses in general. Although, genital herpes is the most stigmatized. Coldsores running in second place. The other herpes family members are not well known by general society. You would be surprised to know I work for a hospital. People with HIV are treated as if they are victims. You never hear HIV jokes. Let me remind you, I work with doctors from all practices, nurse practitioners, respiratory therapists, nurses, dieticians, physical therapists, and so on. I have heard a herpes joke by at least one professional from all specialties. They view herpes worse than cancer. People who come in the hospital for treatment and have herpes are talked about in a negative light. Hospital staff will say, "that is what they get for sleeping around." Coldsores are not so stigmatized in the state I live in. Its "okay" to have oral herpes but its not acceptable to have genital herpes. We honestly do live in dark ages.
  11. Vidhya

    Vidhya Active Member

    Hi Movingslowly, thanks for the insight again. I've read about your difficulties to cope with this, not just emotionally, but also phisically. Don't give up on medication that quickly, and do find appropriate help. I'm sure you'll find something that will work and things will improve. About the rest... Doctors and professionals having a laugh at this... It is horrendous, and people like that should be shamed and exposed. In my country, and in most of Europe, because we did not allow the drug companies to spread their "message" directly to the public, herpes did not enter the realm of popular culture the way it did in the US. There are no jokes about it in my language, and i suppose they must be rare in other languages. Also, because we call the cold sores "herpes" in most languages, it did not become a feared word. So everything worked, and still works, to the benefit of the drug makers in the US, and they can even launch obscene campaigns to "increase awareness about herpes" (and make more money out of people's suffering and stigma), like Novartis/Famvir is doing in Australia, and get away with it. Some people won't even question their kindness and generosity!

    All the best, Movingslowly, get better.
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2012
  12. Movingslowly

    Movingslowly Active Member

    Im thankful to have a loving partner during this whole mess. I still dread the day he is tested. This is a man I plan to spend my life with. Back to using condoms on the rare occassions we do have sex is boring. I shouldnt have to use condoms with the man I plan to grow old with. We should be able to have fun, spontaneous sex whenever we want. Nope, not us. Our sex life is handicapped by a painful virus.
    One last thing. I was diagnosed with eczema recently. Starting to believe my immune system isnt acting normal. Constant obs and now eczema. Humm? Makes me wonder what I should do next in regards to figuring out whats wrong with my immune system. Could simply be stress. Or its trying to tell me something... Hate to show my face at the docs office so I avoid them at all cost.
  13. RealisticGal

    RealisticGal Well-Known Member

    I know you have done a boatload of research, but I just want to be sure...have you heard of eczema herpeticum?
  14. notagain909

    notagain909 Active Member

    I love what sheep we all are...

    Excellent original post & great thread.
  15. Vidhya

    Vidhya Active Member


    Glaxo Settles Cases With U.S. for $3 Billion


    The British drug company GlaxoSmithKline said Thursday that it had agreed to pay $3 billion to settle United States government civil and criminal investigations into its sales practices for numerous drugs.

    The settlement would be the largest yet in a wave of federal cases against pharmaceutical companies accused of illegal marketing, surpassing the previous record of $2.3 billion paid by Pfizer in 2009. In recent years, drug companies have been prime targets of federal fraud investigations, which have recovered tens of billions of dollars for Medicaid and Medicare.

    The cases against GlaxoSmithKline include illegal marketing of Avandia, a diabetes drug that was severely restricted last year after it was linked to heart risks. Federal prosecutors said the company had paid doctors and manipulated medical research to promote the drug.

    GlaxoSmithKline had already set aside cash for the settlement, which analysts said would remove legal uncertainty. The company’s stock rose 2.96 percent Thursday, to $44.55, near its 52-week high, amid a broader market advance of about 2 percent.

    “This is a significant step toward resolving difficult, long-standing matters which do not reflect the company that we are today,” Andrew Witty, chief executive of GlaxoSmithKline, said in a statement. “In recent years, we have fundamentally changed our procedures for compliance, marketing and selling in the U.S. to ensure that we operate with high standards of integrity and that we conduct our business openly and transparently.”

    The agreement to settle its biggest federal cases should be completed next year, the company added in the statement. It said $3 billion would settle not only the Avandia case, but also a Justice Department investigation of its Medicaid pricing practices and a nationwide investigation led by the United States attorneys in Colorado and Massachusetts into the sales and marketing of nine of its drugs from 1997 to 2004.

    GlaxoSmithKline did not specify how much money would resolve each case, nor the possibility of criminal findings and fines, saying the final settlement remained under negotiation. A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment.

    GlaxoSmithKline, with a market value of more than $110 billion, had net profit of about $5 billion on sales of $43 billion in the year ending Sept. 30.

    The company set aside $3.4 billion in January — eliminating its fourth-quarter profit — and $2.3 billion in July 2010 to resolve a variety of civil and criminal cases.

    Critics of the settlements made with drug companies argued for stiffer penalties, including prison sentences for corporate officials.
    Frances H. Miller, a Boston University law professor and health policy expert, said, “Although $3 billion is a very big number in terms of drug industry settlements, it’s not a very big number in relation to almost $50 billion in annual revenue for the world’s fourth-largest pharmaceutical company.”

    Patrick Burns, spokesman for Taxpayers Against Fraud, an advocacy group for whistle-blowers, said, “Who at Glaxo is going to jail as a part of this settlement? Who in management is being excluded from doing future business with the U.S. government?”

    Last year, the Justice Department accused a former vice president and associate general counsel of GlaxoSmithKline, Lauren C. Stevens, of obstruction of justice and making false statements. But she was acquitted of all six charges in May by a United States District Court judge, Roger W. Titus, in Maryland, who ruled that she had been advising the company in good faith.

    Mr. Burns said the health care sector accounted for more than 80 percent of the $4 billion in overpayments recovered by the government in 2010 as a result of whistle-blower lawsuits and resulting fraud investigations by federal and state agencies.

    “This is a well-worn path for big pharma,” said Les Funtleyder, health care strategist with the New York brokerage firm Miller Tabak.

    “I know $3 billion sounds like an astronomical number,” he added, “but when you live in the world of worst-case scenarios, like investors do, $3 billion is a welcome relief. At least you have certainty.”

    Brian Bourdot, an analyst at the investment bank Barclays Capital, called the settlement an important step but also noted that GlaxoSmithKline “remains involved in other legal disputes, including alleged violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.”

    “We regard such disputes as an innate risk for large multinational pharmaceutical companies,” he wrote in a note to investors.
    In a separate case last year, GlaxoSmithKline agreed to pay $750 million, including a $150 million criminal penalty, to resolve federal complaints about manufacturing quality at a plant in Cidra, P.R., since closed.

    Mary Anne Rhyne, a spokeswoman for the company, said Thursday that it was still negotiating with the government over whether to include a corporate integrity agreement in that deal. The agreement could provide further penalties for other violations, though in manufacturing.

  16. Vidhya

    Vidhya Active Member

    Drug giants' big-money pitch exposed

    Hughes G, Minchin L.
    The Age 2003 Dec 13

    Pharmaceutical companies are pouring millions into supposedly independent patient advocacy groups and the main medical organisations to help expand markets.
    They are also using sponsorship and educational grants to fund disease awareness campaigns, raising concerns of “disease mongering”.

    Many groups have become largely or totally reliant on pharmaceutical industry money to keep going, prompting concerns that they are increasingly open to pressure from companies pushing their products.

    A special investigation by The Age has found:

    A nationwide awareness campaign run by the National Asthma Council was spearheaded by a cartoon dragon that was the registered trademark of a drug company and used to promote one individual asthma medication.

    A leading drug company used a public relations company to set up an expert medical board to help persuade people that they needed to be vaccinated against hepatitis A and B.

    The company was not interested in raising awareness about hepatitis C through the board because it did not sell a vaccine for it.

    Treatment guidelines issued to Australian doctors for some diseases are being modelled on those developed by international groups entirely funded by pharmaceutical companies selling drugs for those same conditions.

    Some groups funded by pharmaceutical companies are helping lobby the Federal Government to have new drugs added to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.

    Groups have told The Age they know they are being indirectly used to help promote and market drugs, but say they have no option because of a lack of alternatives.

    Australian Consumers Association health policy officer Martyn Goddard, a former member of the Federal Government’s Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee, said pharmaceutical companies had far too much influence over many consumer groups.

    “Drug companies find it very easy to recruit consumer groups, and they do it very cheaply,” he said.

    “There’s almost no such thing as clean money for most consumer organisations.”

    The total amount of money flowing into patient groups and the main medical bodies in Australia is unclear.

    The most recent figure available from the industry’s top body, Medicines Australia, shows that drug companies spent between $20 million and $25 million on philanthropic causes in 1999, which mostly covered payments to such groups.

    Some groups are blocked from revealing details of the amounts they receive because of confidentiality agreements they have signed with drug companies. A briefing paper prepared for the international pharmaceutical industry by a public relations company, Hill and Knowlton, of Brussels, advised companies that they needed to consider patients as “a true target” for marketing, rather than doctors, and should build “relationships” with patient groups.

    The briefing paper, prepared in December last year, detailed how the world’s second-largest drug company, GlaxoSmithKline, grew into the global leader in sales of respiratory medications by becoming the “number one partner” of patient groups and medical associations.

    One medical specialist involved in an organisation totally sponsored by drug companies described the situation as like “dancing with the devil”.

    There are no independent regulations covering drug company sponsorship deals and grants with patient groups in Australia.

    Voluntary guidelines developed by Medicines Australia are now being independently reviewed by Swinburne University.

    The review is being funded by Medicines Australia and individual drug companies.

    The director of strategic relations at Medicines Australia, Steve Haynes, said the industry hoped the development of new guidelines would tackle concerns that small patient groups could be unfairly influenced by pharmaceutical companies.

    But he denied that funding patient groups to run disease awareness campaigns was “disease mongering”.

    “All you are trying to do with disease awareness is to get people to visit their doctor,” he said.

    A South Australian general practitioner, Peter Mansfield, who runs the internationally renowned Healthy Skepticism website exposing pharmaceutical marketing techniques, said the hijacking of patient groups had become “a huge problem”.

    “To be an advocate for people with those conditions, those organisations ought to be free to criticise the drug companies, just as they ought to be free to criticise doctors if we are not doing our jobs properly,” he said.

    Trish Berger, the executive director of the Australian Herpes Management Forum, which relies totally on money from companies manufacturing herpes medications, believes the “vast majority” of patient groups in Australia are heavily or entirely dependent on drug company money.

    Kristine Whorlow, the chief executive of the National Asthma Council, which used a drug company’s cartoon dragon to spearhead a national awareness campaign, said most sponsors now wanted a financial return on their money in the form of increased market share.

    But the chairman of the Australian Medical Association’s federal therapeutics committee, Robyn Napier, said pharmaceutical companies’ sponsorship of consumer groups was not a problem, as long as specific drugs were not promoted.

    “We can always pull one or two mistakes out and wave them in front of people, but in general terms I think the funding of public campaigns and educational activities by pharmaceutical companies, and that includes research, has been an incredible bonus to the community,” she said.

    Last edited: Jan 5, 2012
  17. Vidhya

    Vidhya Active Member

    Taking your medicine

    Gary Hughes and Liz Minchin follow the big pharmaceutical money trail to reveal who is really behind the health advice we are getting.

    Many of us with chronic health problems rely on advocacy groups and peak medical bodies for independent advice and support. But just how independent is that advice and are we being given the full picture? The Age has found that many advocacy groups are becoming hooked on sponsorship dollars from drug companies and these international corporations are in turn using them to promote their products in Australia's booming $5 billion drug market.




    Click on the sponsorship link on the Australian Herpes Management Forum's website and everything seems to be upfront: "The AHMF is sponsored by GlaxoSmithKline Australia and Novartis Pharmaceuticals via open educational grants.

    "GlaxoSmithKline is the founding sponsor of the Australian Herpes Management Forum and the major sponsor for 2003."

    But there is something that visitors to the AHMF's website are not told: the group relies entirely on Australia's main herpes drug manufacturers for its existence, and has since it was set up in 1996.

    Recently appointed AHMF executive director Trish Berger estimates that in the past financial year, GlaxoSmithKline has given the AHMF about $120,000, or some 80 per cent of its budget. The other 20 per cent comes from Novartis.

    There is a strong bond between the AHMF and GlaxoSmithKline, for many years the only major manufacturer of herpes treatments in Australia.

    Its constitution was written by Glaxo Wellcome's (now GlaxoSmithKline) Melbourne-based law firm, Deacons, and up until August this year the forum's administration was run by public relations firm Edelman, hired on the recommendation of a well known client - GlaxoSmithKline.

    Not surprisingly, Edelman's media releases about herpes on behalf of the AHMF often bore a striking resemblance to those written by the same consultants for GlaxoSmithKline. Most of the herpes experts who have sat on the AHMF board have also worked with or advised GlaxoSmithKline and Novartis in recent years.

    This year the AHMF board has begun to nudge its sponsors away to arm's length, moving to end Edelman's control of the organisation's secretariat. The organisation also created its first paid staff position, Ms Berger's. Her job includes seeking government and other non-pharmaceutical funding.

    Ms Berger is keen to see the AHMF distance itself further from its sponsors, to avoid them "competing through us to get their time and profile enhanced".

    AHMF chairman Professor Adrian Mindel concedes that the forum has been vulnerable to pressure from GlaxoSmithKline and Novartis because without their funding, "the Australian Herpes Management Forum would cease to exist tomorrow".

    But Professor Mindel, who is also professor of sexual health medicine at Sydney University, director of Westmead Hospital's sexually transmitted infection research centre and on the editorial board of the international journal Herpes, insists that the forum and its board have remained independent of their benefactors.

    "We're all professionals who are mostly academics in this area, and protecting our own reputations and independence is also terribly important... We think it is a quid pro quo (arrangement) and that we gain some benefit from that by promoting the science and improving the general health of the community. And they get the benefit in terms of their drug. And I'm not sure it's possible to completely separate the two."

    In contrast, Professor Mindel says the global version of the AHMF, the International Herpes Management Forum, may be a different story.

    He says although the IHMF "produces some very high quality material... whether it is completely unbiased I think is sometimes questionable" because of its close ties to drug companies.

    The AHMF is one of 21 national organisations modelled on the IHMF, which was set up in 1993 to be "an authoritative voice on issues relating to the management of herpes infections". It was a worthy aim, with a wealthy backer.

    GlaxoSmithKline has provided a steady income for the IHMF, funding its Herpes journal, sponsoring research awards and paying for the creation of herpes management guidelines intended for international adoption.

    Today Glaxo is one of three pharmaceutical companies, along with 3M Pharmaceuticals and Novartis, keeping the IHMF afloat.

    More than half of the current IHMF board have links to GlaxoSmithKline, such as leading trials of its herpes drugs, or in one case featuring in a Glaxo-sponsored television special.

    In December 1999, the IHMF spawned a patient offshoot, the International Herpes Alliance, which also relied on GlaxoSmithKline funding to get started.

    Novartis has since signed on as a sponsor too, and the companies' influence pervades the IHA website. Its "educational" material for journalists has been written by the "organisations (that) have made educational contributions to the International Herpes Alliance for the promotion of herpes awareness" - in other words, GlaxoSmithKline and Novartis.


    Last edited: Jan 5, 2012
  18. Vidhya

    Vidhya Active Member


    Glaxo-Affiliated Doctors to Dominate Upcoming NIH Neonatal Herpes Conference

    Letter to NIH on Neonatal Herpes Panel

    Integrity in Science Database

    Health Groups, Prominent Physicians Call on NIH to Seek Balance and Prohibit Financial Conflicts of Interest on Guideline-Writing Panels

    January 18, 2007

    WASHINGTON—Next month five physicians will lead sessions at a National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) conference that was called to write clinical practice guidelines for preventing neonatal herpes. Four of those doctors have direct financial relationships with pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline—a company which stands to gain if the conference recommends broader testing of pregnant women for herpes, since Glaxo makes the antiviral drug Valtrex. Today more than 40 physicians and scientists and more than a dozen health organizations called on the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to seek balance when it convenes guideline-writing panels, and to ensure that all panelists are free from financial conflicts of interest like those of the four Glaxo-affiliated doctors.

    A December 13 front-page article in The Wall Street Journal documented how Glaxo bankrolls continuing medical education sessions and physician talks aimed at promoting universal herpes screening for pregnant women. Remarkably, two of the doctors whose activities were exposed by the Journal will be among the five presenters at the upcoming February 20 NIH conference. The four presenters with ties to Glaxo are:

    Dr. Anna Wald of the University of Washington has received grants and research support for her work on herpes from Glaxo and Roche, and received honoraria from Novartis, all of whom make antiviral drugs for herpes;

    • Dr. Zane Brown of the University of Washington gives “two to three lectures a week advocating universal herpes testing for pregnant women, earning $1,000 to $2,500 per talk,” and most of those sessions were financed by Glaxo grants to the CME providers, according to the Journal article;

    • Dr. Laura Riley of Harvard Medical School is secretary/treasurer of the American Herpes Foundation, a “patient advocacy” non-profit run by a for-profit medical marketing firm; its board contains no patients and its $183,000 budget in 2004 was almost entirely funded by Glaxo and Roche; and

    • Dr. Richard Whitley of the University of Alabama at Birmingham, who serves on the speakers bureaus for Glaxo and Novartis and serves on the board, and receives stock options and compensation from the start-up firm Fermavir, which is developing next-generation drugs aimed at the herpes family of viruses. Moreover, Dr. Whitley carried out these private sector activities while running NIAID’s Collaborative Antiviral Study Group.

    Obstetricians and gynecologists are sharply divided over whether all pregnant women should be tested for herpes, given that neonatal transmission of herpes is relatively rare, occurring in as few as 200 or as many as 1,250 U.S. births each year, according to sources quoted in the Journal. Articles and letters questioning universal testing, which would almost surely lead to more women being prescribed Valtrex, have recently appeared in the Lancet and leading OB/GYN journals.

    “Given the controversy surrounding the subject, we were surprised to see the lineup of speakers for the February 20 meeting… The lineup did not reflect the diversity of views on this subject, nor did the invitation reveal the conflicts of interest of virtually every invited presenter,” the health organizations and physicians wrote to Dr. Elias Zerhouni, director of the National Institutes of Health, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the NIAID, which is part of NIH, and other officials. Signatories included Lancet Editor-in-Chief Dr. Richard Horton, former New England Journal of Medicine editors Dr. Marcia Angell and Dr. Jerome P. Kassirer, the Center for Medical Consumers, Consumers Union, and the National Women’s Health Network.

    This isn’t the first time that NIH has convened guideline-writing panels that had members with ties to companies that stand to lose or gain from the panels’ recommendations, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, which organized the letter to NIH. Panels having to do with managing cholesterol, hypertension, and HIV/AIDS have all had large numbers of industry-funded researchers serving on them.

    “NIH shouldn’t let drug company-affiliated doctors write the rules, and it shouldn’t stack the deck to make it look like there is medical consensus on something when there’s not,” said Merrill Goozner, director of the Integrity in Science Project at CSPI, which maintains a database of industry-funded scientists.

    Last edited: Jan 5, 2012
  19. SCG

    SCG Active Member

    I kind of disagree with the premise of INVENTED stigma

    The idea of the herpes stigma being created reminds me of AIDS denialism. Basically a way for sufferers to deny or minimize their problem by convincing themselves that they are completely normal.

    HSV2 was a health and public concern before acyclovir came out, It was a contagious virus that caused pain and sores on genitals frequently. Not fun and a good reason to make medicine to treat it. But there was simply nothing to treat it so there wasn't much doctors could do before Acyclovir. But herpes isn't life threatening so there was no widespread panic.

    Acyclovir was created because there was a need for it. I don't believe it this "Invented Stigma" conspiracy.

    Just my two cents.
    Last edited: Jan 6, 2012
  20. Vidhya

    Vidhya Active Member

    SCG, be welcome to disagree. You may have a point. I don't think there really is any conspiracy here. It's all very clear actually. Just facts, and everybody can make up their own mind.
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