Bloggers Can Spread the Word--Just Not About the Sponsors' Competitors
Now back to my original blog post:
I want to make something very clear: my point in the previous post was not that the people Roche identified as "influential bloggers" were sell outs. My point was that when a company like Roche decides as part of a marketing action to define who is influential in our community, everyone in the community needs to stop and think about what that means.
When I said we need to look at the posts of the people who went to this shindig my point was not that these people had sold out, but that because this was an attempt to co-opt leaders in a vibrant online community, we need to look at what happens next. Did it work? The blogs of these people would be the obvious place to look.
We know that drug companies have a long history of targeting and co-opting doctors who are considered influential. These efforts have been very successful. Not so incidentally, we are about to hear a lot more about the problems with meters, since the FDA is considering taking on the meter manufacturers and demanding they improve their meters' accuracy as there is solid evidence that meters meeting the currently defined woefully broad "acceptable" range of meter accuracy is killing people.
This topic was discussed recently in the NYTimes. I have already blogged about it. Did these other influential bloggers? I don't know. They each have their own area of focus and meter accuracy might not be relevant to the topics they cover. But with this issue emerging, what better time for Roche to build "partnerships" with the blogging community.
I know people like Scott Strumello--the very influential--and brilliant--blogger whose blog clued me into this story--are not about to stop reporting about drug company malfeasance no matter how many plane tickets Roche buys him.
I hope Scott will look into the question of what happened to the patents for all the non-invasive blood sugar meter patents that have been tested over the past decade, found to work well, and then disappeared forever. Usually this kind of product disappearance is a sign a large company has bought the patents to keep them from being used by competitors. Since meter companies make their money selling you strips at $1.07 a piece, a meter that does not use comsumables could destroy their cash cow and the price of buying the patent is nothing compared to lost profits. I think of this every time I use my blood pressure meter, for free.
I understand that some blogs are about reassuring people and reaching out and sharing compassionate friendship to people dealing with a very tough diagnosis. I do not suggest that isn't important. it is very important. If this meeting had been defined as a meeting of people with Type 1 who publish supportive blogs for other people with Type 1 diabetes I would have kept my mouth shut.
But it wasn't. It was described as a meeting of the top influential diabetes bloggers. A look at who was invited made it clear that it included Type 2s and that it included people who, like me, do not do compassionate outreach, but who review and endorse products for Type 2s. But it also stuck out that the people who were included who review product did not publish negative reviews about the random number generator Roche sent them this past winter, either. A salient point? Who knows. If nothing else, it is one worth some discussion.
This is why I raised the issue. Not as an attack on other bloggers but because in all the reports I read of the conference in the blogs of these other bloggers I did NOT see anyone raise the issue of what it means to let a company like Roche define who is influential. No one seems to have a problem, either, with the idea that Roche will decide which bloggers newly diagnosed people should be steered to by giving beautifully produced, glossy blog lists to doctors to distribute to newly diagnosed patients.
If I had been invited, I would have made the exact same points.
If you are invited to a subsequent get together or start receiving marketing materials from Roche--and trust me every communication you get from a company like Roche IS marketing material--give it some thought yourself.
The research on the impact of drug company marketing on doctors is that doctors, when asked, report that they aren't influenced by the meals, toys, classes, junkets etc. they get from drug and device companies, but that their prescribing patterns tell a very different story. That's why the drug and device companies do what they do. And if the are now moving to do it to us, we shouldn't expect to do any better than the doctors.