Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Woody Allen sues American Apparel for using his likeness in advertising

Last year in Ethics Follies, our good friend Heloise acted in a scene where an air freshner ad misappropriated her likeness to increase sales. American Apparel takes a page right out of last year's Follies script and uses another famous face without permission.

March 31st, 2008 by Scott Marks

"Woody Allen was in federal court today looking to put a dent in American Apparel’s profit margin to the tune of $10 million claiming the clothing manufacturer illegally used his image in an internet and billboard advertising campaign.
According to Variety, the lawsuit contended Allen was not contacted by the company and did not give permission for them to the use his likeness and accuses American Apparel of “blatant misappropriation and commercial use of Allen’s image.” It goes on to say the billboard falsely implied that Allen sponsored, endorsed or was associated with American Apparel, said the lawsuit, which seeks at least $10 million in compensatory damages and unspecified punitive damages.
The picture of Rebbe Woody is a frame blow up from Annie Hall. In the film Woody fantasizes how he must look in the eyes of his girlfriend’s Jew-hating Grammy. The Yiddish text on the billboard translates into “the Holy Rebbe.”
The lawsuit describes Woody as among the most influential figures in the history of American film and a man who has maintained strict control over the projects with which he is associated. Woody appeared in a lot of American advertising campaigns in the 60s, most notably a series of Smirnoff vodka ads, but hasn’t been a pitchman for products or services in the United States in decades."

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Did Merck Make Phony Peer-Review Journal for Marketing?

Summer Johnson, PhD reports on blog.bioethics.net about questionable peer reviewed journal that seems to be an automatic "stamp of approval" for Merck products. The journal doesn't mention that the stamp is held by Merck itself. If Dr. Johnson is correct, this is probably the clearest example of unethical drug marketing you will come across. Read her story below and let me know what you think:

It's a safe guess that somewhere at Merck today someone is going through the meeting minutes of the day that the hair-brained scheme for the Australasian Journal of Bone and Joint Medicine was launched, and that everyone who was in the room is now going to be fired.

The Scientist has reported that, yes, it's true, Merck cooked up a phony, but
real sounding, peer reviewed journal and published favorably looking data for
its products in them. Merck paid Elsevier to publish such a tome, which neither
appears in MEDLINE or has a website, according to The Scientist.

What's wrong with this is so obvious it doesn't have to be argued for. What's sad is that I'm sure many a primary care physician was given literature from Merck that said, "As published in Australasian Journal of Bone and Joint Medicine, Fosamax outperforms all other medications...." Said doctor, or even the average researcher wouldn't know that the journal is bogus. In fact, knowing that the journal is published by Elsevier gives it credibility!

These kinds of endeavors are not possible without help. One of The Scientist's most notable finds is a Australian rheumatologist named Peter Brooks who served on the "honorary advisory board" of this "journal". His take: "I don't think it's fair to say it was totally a marketing journal", apparently on the grounds that it had excerpts from peer-reviewed papers. However, in his entire time on the board he never received a single paper for peer-review, but because he apparently knew the journal did not receive original submissions of research. This didn't seem to bother him one bit. Such "throwaways" of non-peer reviewed publications and semi-marketing materials are commonplace in medicine.

But wouldn't that seem odd for an academic journal? Apparently not. Moreover,
Peter Brooks had a pretty lax sense of academic ethics any way: he admitted to
having his name put on a "advertorial" for pharma within the last ten years,
says The Scientist. An "advertorial"? Again, language unfamiliar to us in the
academic publishing world, but apparently quite familiar to the pharmaceutical
publishing scene.

It is this attitude within companies like Merck and among doctors that allows scandals precisely like this to happen. While the scandals with Merck and Vioxx are particularly egregious, we know they are not isolated incidents. This one is just particularly so. If physicians would not lend their names or pens to these efforts, and publishers would not offer their presses, these publications could not exist. What doctors would have as available data would be peer-reviewed research and what pharmaceutical companies produce from their marketing departments--actual advertisements.

Summer Johnson, PhD