Lilly's promo deal with CVS draws fire

Eli Lilly is catching heat for paying CVS Caremark to promote its Cymbalta drug to doctors. The CVS pharmacy benefits manager has been sending promotional materials to doctors, touting Cymbalta for its new indication as a fibromyalgia treatment.

The promos come under the guise of professional advice--"We are committed to providing health care professionals with information about drug therapy," the CVS Caremark letter said (as quoted by the Indianapolis Star), before getting into the info about Cymbalta--but small print disclosed that Lilly paid for the mailing.

Some doctors who received the letters called them "deceptive," and consumer advocates decried the practice, calling it "atrocious" and saying it should be "forbidden." (To be fair, Lilly is far from the only company that's hired a PBM to promote its meds; some have even used the pharmacies' information on specific patients' diagnoses to target their promotions.)

When first contacted by the IndyStar about the Cymbalta mailings, a Lilly spokesperson defended them, saying that the company's involvement was clearly disclosed and that the promos included the necessary risk and safety information. But later, the company said it was re-evaluating the approach. Will the re-think spread to other drugmakers as well? Stay tuned.

- read the IndyStar article