CVS Caremark attacked for allegedly deceptive drug ads

In what was supposed to be a bit of routine business, CVS Caremark recently sent out a series of promotional mailings to doctors on behalf of a handful of major drugmakers, including Eli Lilly, Merck, AstraZeneca, Bayer and others. The mailings, which are marked "Confidential--May Include Protected Health Information,"are designed to look like the materials doctors get when a patient hasn't refilled a drug, or might be getting addictive medication scripts refilled too often.

However, as it turns out, the letters were nothing of the kind. They're actually advertising--marked, CVS Caremark and the pharmas say, in three separate locations--despite looking like materials designed to assist doctors with tracking in this case.

One notice that fell into the hands of Dr. Daniel Carlat, a Massachusetts psychiatrist, promoted the use of the Eli Lilly antidepressant Cymbalta. The Lilly letter stressed the benefits of using Cymbalta to treat fibromyalgia, a use which was recently approved by the FDA. Carlat, who has since written to Lilly to protest the practice, has lashed out at the company for what he sees as deceptive marketing, and dubbed CVS Caremark a "pharmacy whore" for taking Big Pharma money to distribute these materials.

Carlat is one of many physicians who have complained about such mailings, which critics say are deceptive and inappropriate marketing approaches.

"This kind of drug marketing should simply be forbidden," Steven Findlay, senior health policy analyst at Consumers Union, told the Indianapolis Star. "It does not fully inform doctors about drug treatment choices." (Consumers Union publishes famed consumer ratings publication Consumer Reports.)

To learn more about this advertising:
- read this Indianapolis Star piece

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