Three weeks ago Johanna Ryan and Kim Witczak wrote a letter to Stacy London about Humira and AbbVie. They were hoping for a response but there has been none so far.
Stacy London of What Not to Wear fame has a lot going for her. She is a successful business woman, style guru and role model for women around the world. AbbVie must be delighted to have her partner with them in their campaign supporting psoriasis sufferers called Uncover Your Confidence.
“Through the Uncover Your Confidence campaign, I hope to inspire others living with psoriasis to be self-assured through their own personal style, stay positive and find the right dermatologist to help them manage their disease”
You see, AbbVie sell Humira.
Humira is a monoclonal antibody – one of the new biological agents that acts on the immune system. Its side effects can be so nasty it has a black box warning on it.
(Click on the image to read the text)
Despite this, it’s on its way to becoming the best-selling drug of all time. You don’t get to be a best-seller on this scale without pushing the marketing envelope way beyond those who are seriously enough ill to warrant taking risks with a dangerous drug. Without running a marketing campaign that is to old-style drug marketing as a HumVie is to one of the smaller European cars.
The company have already been warned by the FDA for promoting Humira for milder conditions and misleading about its safety. The marketing includes many emotive messages – with images suggesting children are repelled by a single patch of psoriasis.
The marketing of Humira shows how healthcare is being transformed into a Humiraverse, in which celebrities can have a part to play.
Companies often recruit celebrities to front disease awareness campaigns to increase sales of their drugs. It’s one thing to use celebrities to front fashion campaigns. Selling drugs is trickier.
Psoriasis is an unpleasant disease. My father had it till the day he died and I can remember the coal-tar, ultraviolet light treatments and endless steroids.
It would be great to have a magic wand to wave over all sufferers to cure it. But you wouldn’t knowingly take chemotherapy to treat a patch of scaly skin on your neck.
Humira is not a magic wand. Would someone who develops a cancer after taking it think it was worth it? What would Cynthia di Bartolo say?
You would be forgiven for thinking after seeing this campaign that Stacy had taken Humira and that’s why she looks great and seems to have no problem with psoriasis. But as she reports in her book, Stacy had a tonsillectomy at 17 which resolved her psoriasis.
“Not only did the operation clear up my skin,” she writes, “but I haven’t had an outbreak of psoriasis since.”
This is not a blame Stacy pitch. It’s almost impossible not to become part of the Humiraverse these days. As outlined elsewhere on this blog companies can even put lectures by me about the risks of suicide and homicide on SSRIs to good use to increase the sales of these same SSRIs.
But there is something we all can do that can make a difference – we can AbbVie. And no-one is better placed to do this than Stacy.
Whether part of their HumVie marketing campaign or not, AbbVie have taken an action against the European Medicines Agency, which is based in London. They are trying to block access to data on the side effects of Humira. If they win they will block access to all data on all drugs.
In a desperate effort to counteract this, a few of us have launched an AbbVie campaign several weeks ago.
One of the people who could give this campaign the profile it really needs is Stacy. She can support psoriasis sufferers as she has always done or can really do something significant for psoriasis sufferers and everyone else who is taking any medicine for any reason, by helping to make everyone aware of the risks AbbVie’s legal action poses to everyone. A letter from Stacy in support of the European Medicines Agency policy of open access to clinical trial data would be really powerful.
Stacy is famous for her What Not to Wear campaign – helping people to dress better to feel better about themselves.
Helping people use drugs better would improve the lives of millions. But we can’t use drugs better if we don’t have access to the basic information about them.
Many drugs can cause skin problems – which can be devastating. Stacy could look at the RxISK skin zone. Here you can find a collection of drugs that cause skin problems as side effects. Many people are not aware of this and they can have devastating consequences. Stacy has outlined in her book just how devastating the harmful effects of steroids were on her skin – because she hadn’t been given the right information.
Johanna and Kim wrote to Stacy on July 26th. No response. Keep checking here. We’ll keep you posted.
Illustration: Humira: Yes, “death” is a possible side effect, © 2013 created by Billiam James